Alex Dunn

Enough Is Enough

On November 18, 2001, an article, “Plan Would Add Math to the Regents Exam,” by James Salzer, was printed in the Atlanta Constitution. The purpose of the article was to inform the reader of Governor Roy Barnes’, along with his Office of Education Accountability and members of the University System, plan to include a mathematics exam to the battery of tests that make up the Board of Regents Exam, an exam students must pass to obtain a degree. The new math section would supplement the reading and writing aspects that presently confound thousands of exam participants each year. Unfortunately for the many college students who have yet to meet their state Regents requirements, Regents Board chairman Hilton Howell expects unilateral support for the plan from his colleagues. Outgoing University System Chancellor Stephen Portch believes a pilot math test could be ready for implementation as early as next fall.

With the current requirements for an incoming freshman and the inclusion of math and English courses in the core curriculum of every field of study, I am unable to justify the current Regents Exam, and have serious issues with the addition of a math segment to its barrage. The skills tested by the Regents exam are the very ones necessary for graduation. Shouldn’t graduation itself be the determining factor of competence? Applicants to a state university are expected to have completed algebra I and II, geometry and at least one other upper level math course in high school, as well as English classes each year in school, prior to their acceptance. Admission also relies heavily on the SAT and ACT test scores, both of which are steeped in math and English aspects. General core degree requirements of most state universities include two English composition courses, an English literary course, and two mathematics courses. Surely, the acceptance to a university and the passing of the required core components is enough to demonstrate the student’s capabilities in the relative disciplines.

Although I must admit college graduates should be able to express themselves articulately, justifying somewhat the reading and writing aspects of the exam, the criteria of a mathematics exam at the college level escapes me. What will the scope of the test be? What degree of difficulty should we expect? Should an art major suffer from the stringent criteria an engineering major should endure?  Is it possible to justify an exam that would be redundant at best and grossly unfair at its worst? Upon whose shoulders will this decision lie? All these questions and yet some believe the math exam could be ready for implementation in the fall of 2002. All I can say is best of luck to whomever this arduous undertaking falls. 

The article touches on what I believe to be the problem this proposal is attempting to solve, accountability. However, shifting the accountability issue to the university system is a fait accompli.  Reform efforts should be directed more at the K-12 programs, where learning skills are and should be better emphasized.  The successful college applicant is not the bane of our school systems. Let us focus our attention elsewhere.  Enough is enough.