# This Chart Should Bother You

This is the most depressing chart I have seen in a long time. Below are the results of our pretest on knowledge of fraction operations of 322 students in grades 3 through 7, attending schools on and adjacent to American Indian reservations.

These are questions like,

“Drag 6/1 to the correct spot on the number line.”

Which was one of only two questions that at least 50% of the children answered correctly.

or

Identify the letter that marks 7/8 on a number line

14% of the children answered that right.

Then there are the word problems,

“Bob and Ted painted a wall. Bob painted 1/5 of the wall and Ted painted 2/5 of the wall. How much of the wall is left to paint?”

38% of the children answered that correctly.

Looks like they did better on item 7, which asks which of these statements is true

5/6 < 3/4
2/8 < 1/4
3/6 = 6/12
2/3 = 4/5

26% of them got that correct. Guess what? That was one of the few multiple choice items on the test, so random guessing would have gotten it correct 25% of the time.

This is a test of what is ostensibly third- through fifth-grade math. Two-thirds of the test is at the fourth-grade level or below. As our results indicate, the majority of the students who took the test would not understand what that statement means.

For the 163 fifth-graders who took our pretest, the mean score was 28%.

For the 114 fourth-graders, the mean was a dismal 14.7%.

It wasn’t that the students didn’t try. I looked and there were very few places they left the items blank. They simply did not know.

These students came from several different schools, and while there may be differences between schools,  there is nothing to suggest one school with abysmal results pulled down all of the others.

I called our lead cultural consultant, Dr. Erich Longie, out at Spirit Lake, and told him that I was concerned about presenting these results to the schools that they might want to shoot the messenger. After all, it is important to us that these schools continue to provide us their input and guidance. He told me not to worry about it too much.

“They know,” he told me, “As someone who has been a teacher and administrator in schools on the reservations, I’m not surprised by the results and I can’t imagine these schools will be, either. What we all ought to be worried about is making sure that the post-test scores don’t look like this.”

So … students will start playing Fish Lake in the schools next month. No pressure here.

Excuse me while I get back to work.