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QUIZ: Could YOU pass tenth grade?

edited December 2011 in Off-Topic
From the Washington Post-

Here are two quick quizzes that we have assembled for you to take with problems taken from a published version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

One of the seven-question quizzes is for math, the other for reading, and both are at the 10th-grade level. It includes your score as you go and at the end. You are permitted to use a calculator and look up general equations (Pythagorean, volume of a sphere, etc.).

Why did we create these quizzes?

We decided to do this because of the enormous popularity of a guest post by educator Marion Brady about a school board member in Florida who decided to take the state standardized test.

He didn’t do so well, which you can read all about here. I then followed up with this post revealing who the school board member was and sharing an interview with him.

OJ Personal Note- Very interesting interview from the fellow who didn't do so well. I really don't know what to say about this one... I managed 100% on both, and I know plenty of people who are a lot smarter than me... are we maybe measuring the wrong stuff?

The school board member who took the test said that "he didn't know" the answers to any of the math questions, but guessed at some correctly. Me too. I'm really terrible at math. But evaluating a group of unknowns, and applying "common sense" (whatever that is) to eliminate the least probable, and then maybe a ballpark trial or two on the remaining possibilities to see if they look reasonable... isn't that how we make the great majority of decisions in our lives? If the math tests are really measuring the ability to reason also, doesn't that increase their validity? Or should a math test be strictly for math, and a separate reasoning-ability section be included, with a pass required in at least one of the two?


  • Hey, OJ.

    Hell, I'm still work'in at 6th grade math review at this house. I have not taken the tests listed in your post, but will try to get some time later tonight for that.

    The below was sent to me in March, 2008. Obviously, the subjects/topics of knowledge vary from today's needs, in some aspects. But, I feel this is a most interesting document.

    scroll down for the test, which starts with the grammar section.

    1895 graduation test!! Wow!!

    What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895...
    Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?

    This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina , Kansas , USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina , and reprinted by the Salina Journal.
    8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895

    Grammar (Time, one hour)
    1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
    2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
    3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
    4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie,""play," and "run."
    5. Define case; illustrate each case.
    6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
    7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

    Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
    1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
    2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
    3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
    4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
    5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
    6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
    7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. Long at $20 per metre?
    8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
    9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
    10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt

    U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
    1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
    2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
    3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
    4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
    5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
    6. Describe three of the most prominent b attles of the Rebellion.
    7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
    8. Name event s connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

    Orthography (Time, one hour)
    [Do we even know what this is??]
    1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
    2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
    3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
    4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
    5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
    6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
    7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
    8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
    9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
    10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

    Geography (Time, one hour)
    1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
    2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
    3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
    4. Describe the mountains of North America
    5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco .
    6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
    7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
    8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
    9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
    10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

    Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.

    Gives the saying "he only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?!
    Also shows you how poor our education system has become! and, NO! I don't have the answers.
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Hi Maurice,

    Fire a teacher, if unionized.............good luck with such a plan, eh?
  • Gents,

    Challenging questions, Old Joe.

    You all seem to have a genuine concern for education so I'll pose a few questions that cross my mind. I'm going to be a bit of a gadfly here, but don't take this as criticisms, just as legitimate questions:

    Catch: The 1895 test was impressive in demanding that you recall what you had memorized . . . but nothing more than what you had memorized. Should students be able to analyze real-life problems or simply recall lots of memorized data?

    Question for all of us:
    --On the other hand, the 1895 test required some knowledge of history and geography (though unfortunately no biology, chemistry, music, health, civics, the constitution, . . . at all). Should we be concerned that Florida bases its education only on answers to multiple-choice questions in math and reading comprehension?
    --The FCAT asked some challenging algebra and geometry questions (not just based on memorization, so that's a step ahead of 1895). Just considering our personal interest in investments here at MFO, and our recognition of the importance of basic understanding how businesses and the economy work, should we be concerned that there are no questions at all dealing with the kind of math and practical knowledge that we know is important for our lives, e.g., questions about interest, fractional and decimal relationships, taxes, rates of change, etc.?
    --The poetry interpretation questions were interesting, but, do we care if students actually can write, or simply analyze what others have written?
    --If the students are not prepared for college, is the fault primarily with the teachers--who are told to focus entirely on this sort of very limited curriculum and testing--or should we be changing who is writing curriculum in the state capitals?
    --Clearly, some teachers are not as good as others. But we all realize, don't we, that if you're a new young teacher who's (typically) assigned to work in a district with a lot of immigrant children or with a lot of families that have very poor educations, you might find it just a little bit harder to get the students to pass the tests in several months than you would if you were teaching kids who had probably mastered these skills a couple of years earlier? If the policy is just to fire any teacher whose students don't pass the test, then how likely are we to recruit ambitious young teachers next year? Is there more to teaching than the students' test results, regardless where the students started?
    --Are we really "throwing money at education" in the US? It's interesting to see the international research on this, and see that countries with the best results (whether it be Finland or South Korea) are ones in which teachers are recruited among the "best and brightest" and are paid accordingly. In those countries, too, the curriculum addresses a broad and challenging range of subjects. Education is viewed as a high priority, a national investment, and all students are pressed to reach a high standards. Elected local school board members--who do not have to be able to pass school tests and who have often run on the basis of some pet political issue--do not have the power to write the national school curriculum, either.

    These are important question, for sure. Don't we need to develop much higher expectations for what we expect our students to know and be able to do?
  • Thank you very much, Ginko. It was exactly questions and thoughts like yours that I hoped to prompt with this. My wife was a teacher, for some 35 years, in some of San Francisco's public schools located in "non-prime" areas, and I personally think that she deserves a medal.

    But I haven't really got a position in this discussion- I'm at a loss to know what exactly is true, useful, or important with this one.

    Regards, and many thanks for your thoughtful and introspective observations and questions.
  • Reply to @Maurice: Greetings MO:
    I believe the saying goes. You can lead them to water, but you can't make them think ( drink) ! Lot's of problems for educating the kids now.
    later, derf
  • Ginko,
    Thanks for a thoughtful response.
    Yes, any of us *in that school situation* could pass or have passed the tests, and well - just as we passed, well, our own tests in our own time and place.
    (So I find such comparisons not compelling.)

    I worked for a time with the translation project that produced the raw data on which the "Who's Ahead in Science - Soviet Union or US?" articles that Newsweek ran about every 5 years during the Cold War were based. (Monte Carlo simulations in Russian did me in.) I have forgotten the basic comparisons of what was taught at each level. However, that project was succeeded by a Japanese math translation project. According to actual textbooks used, students were introduced to solving for an unknown quantity in first grade, and by third grade were being exposed to basic concepts of calculus.

    I have also had opportunity to work with a few non-US government leaders, barristers, and so on, and have been impressed by their deep general knowledge base.

    Dunno how to even approach solving US education mess (beyond moving to Europe). Family expectations count, as does inculcating a reverence for education. Too many instruments used to "improve" schools (= test scores) are blunt, or blind.

    The FCAT does not really count, IMO. A few years ago Florida had the lowest public expenditure per student capita of all states; it has since passed the honor to another state.
  • Reminds me of this
  • Reply to @InformalEconomist:

    Agree with you, IE. It's a particular challenge in the US, where we have 50 different school curricula, and where education often seems to be a battleground for ideological jousting.

  • Reply to @Old_Joe:

    As an ex-principal, I know the kinds of huge challenges that teachers face in some schools and communities.

    Bravo for saying that dedicated teachers deserve medals and support, rather than being constantly threatened with administrative axes (or tipping) as a form of "encouragement".

    We Americans seem to have a difficult time trying to define who we are and what we stand for. I guess it's no surprise that we play out our dramas so frequently around our schools.

  • Yes, I'm smarter than Kellie Pickler. (Spelling?) Apparently, so are most OTHER people, too. Wow. Such ignorance. I hate to mention the dumb blonde jokes, but... And about education, teaching, standardized tests: if teachers find they must "teach to the test," that is MOST unfortunate. LEARNING is the goal, yes? I've subbed in years pas. Some of the kids are animals, downright feral. I'm not talking about underprivileged kids. I'm talking about kids with no manners, no sense of courtesy or how to behave around other people in public. Parents are not doing THEIR job! And I tell ya what: though I lean Left politically, I'm doggone tired of the ongoing need to be so damned politically correct all the time. You can't hardly manage to express a thought anymore without always having to sound "inclusive."
  • Hey Max- yeah, for sure "all of the above are (is) true". Thanks for the comments. Have a great Christmas! Best- OJ
  • Reply to @MaxBialystock:


    I'm not sure what's behind your concern about politically correct behavior here, or what you mean by sounding inclusive.

    My thoughts are:
    --Kids, as they grow up, are often only acting out behavior that they see in adults around them. That doesn't excuse their misbehavior when it happens, of course. --Schools need to have clear standards for respect and honesty, and they need to apply to everyone, educators as well as students.


    For what it's worth: there's no country that doesn't face these same issues, is there?

  • Hey, Ginko: "inclusive:" means always needing to re-phrase everything in your head so that some generic substitute gets used once you open your mouth. For example, switching from "Man" for Mankind to Humankind. Or the Human Race. And one never uses he or she anymore, it must be "one," referring to the individual. (As in, "one never does X or Y or Z...") In seminary, things went as far as substituting "realm" for "kingdom of God." the whole he-she thing can get absurd, we were taught to use s/he in order to avoid the need to include both "he" and "she" in sentences. I don't mind at all using the female pronouns instead, or female images for The Almighty. But these days, everyone has to be included. No one can be left out. Everyone needs stroking, to feel wanted, loved, included, useful and appreciated. Every conceivable group has its own special-interest lobby. Next week, since I'm a Lefty, I'll be starting a Left-handed doorknob Installers' Union. They (oops, I mean WE) are grossly under-represented everywhere.

    Some languages are a "lost cause" from the get-go about inclusiveness. Spanish, for example, where "padres," the explicitly masculine word, gets used to express the sense that BOTH parents are included in some reference or other. Context is key, because "padres" could refer to a group of fathers ONLY.

    ...Oh, what's a mother to do?
  • edited December 2011
    People's brains work differently. This may be self-selected to a certain extent. When I was in school my interests were in science and math. Going to school was one of my "talents" so I could always make an A on history, language, etc. tests but even if I could, for one day, give the exact date of a historical event, there is no way I bothered to remember it past the day of the test.

    So here is a difference in people which is related to tests but not to knowledge or achievement:

    Ask me if freedom of speech is a part of the Constitution, someone like me might say yes either because it makes sense that it would be or because, when it was covered in class, there were fascinating aspects brought forward concerning what the Constitution really was saying.

    Ask me what amendment number in the Constitution covered freedom of speech and I flunk the test.

    I don't believe in tests too much as a result of studying people all my life and finding their talents and achievements to differ but also appreciating people with brains that worked much differently than my own.
  • Hi Anna, and thanks for your reply. I also agree with everything that you've mentioned. You know, when I read Catch's 1895 test above, it really reminded me of seemingly endless hours of memorization in religion class, specifically designed so that we could parrot back a neat little "answer", and more importantly, so that all of our "answers" were exactly identical.

    We surely don't want to encourage any individual thinking when it comes to religion! We were especially cautioned not to ask about, participate in, or even visit the churches of any other religion, as ours was the only true and completely infallible one, and for a certainty none of those other people had the slightest chance of going to heaven. Heaven was reserved for us alone.

    Why was I not surprised when, as I got older, I found out that there were LOTS of religions that were also the one true and completely infallible ones (and death to all unbelievers!) Well, the all too obvious inconsistencies with what we memorized and actual life pretty well neutralized all of that expensive religious training, and I function quite nicely as a born-again agnostic, thank you. So yes, the ability to think and reason and the ability to memorize stuff to pass a test are completely different exercises.

    Regards- OJ
  • Common sense !! I've met a few people with book smarts, but when it came to what is refered to as (common sense) they would have finished in the bottom 10 per cent. I'm surprised it's not taught in school ! TE HE
  • Reply to @Derf: Yea, but lately I think "common sense" is overrated. Everyone claims to possess "common sense". Unfortunately, all I can agree with is the possessed part.
  • Reply to @Anna:

    Here, here.
  • Reply to @MaxBialystock:

    Hey Max,

    Our discussion is getting really totally off-topic but I want to follow up with you because I think your point is important.

    I hear what you're saying, but I guess I'm of two minds about this.

    If we were raised with a language (like Spanish) where nouns were somewhat arbitrarily masculine or feminine and everyone understood that each one could be used in a gender-neutral way, then we would have been brought up knowing that a noun of one gender could be inclusive of the other.

    For a long time, I resisted the movement that said that we needed to neutralize the English language in order to remove gender bias. I thought it was going too far and that this was unnecessary.

    I still think it's probably unnecessary. However, I've become a lot more sympathetic to the inclusive side in recent years as I've seen so much cleverly covert and coded, but persistent, racial, religious, ethnic, gender, and lower-class intolerance: from "birthers", to the recent threats against Lowe's for advertising on a program that showed Muslim-American families who were simply normal Americans, to those that keep suggesting that the unemployed are "losers" who should be written off. This intolerant side has a very different idea of what America stands for, and seem determined to seize the country for themselves.

    So, even though I understand your point and take it to heart, I think that we're making a clear statement if we err on the side of inclusion for the sake of defending the idea that we're all Americans and all deserve respect.

    It took me a while to get to this point (agreeing with you that this shouldn't be necessary at all) but that's where I am.
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