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A Simple Answer to the Math Achievement Problems of Montgomery County, Md.

Today’s Washington Post has an alarmist article about math exam problems in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The article opens by saying

For another semester, Montgomery County high school students flunked their final exams in math courses in startlingly high numbers, according to new figures that show failure rates of 71 percent for Geometry and 68 percent for Algebra 1.

Later, the article admits the real cause of the alleged problem:

For many students, the final exam comes when semester grades are firmly set after two quarters of day-to-day classroom work. The exam is worth 25 percent of the course grade — a significant percentage but in many cases not enough to sway it drastically.

So here is the simple and obvious answer: put that final exam grade in a separate column in the transcript. Students may not try terribly hard, but they will try hard enough to avoid failing.

What gets measured gets done.