Group Math Tests Encouraging Collaboration or Discouraging Excellence

Katie Frost, Guest Contributor

Assigning group math tests are a method that some La Jolla High math teachers use to evaluate students’ ability to collaborate with other people by instructing them to teach and work together.

Teachers at La Jolla High have differing views on whether group math tests should be implemented. For instance, Mr. Soto, an Integrated Three teacher, said “Group tests improve collaboration skills and prepare students for the real world.” Mr. Kinsel, a Statistics and Precalculus teacher, said, “tests and their grades are supposed to be individual.” 

Common Core, the curriculum that the La Jolla High math classes use, encourages collaboration while engaging in the learning process, but does not require or mention group tests. According to Core Standards, the curriculum’s standards website, “[The students] justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others.” The decision on whether to assign group math tests is at each individual math teacher’s discretion and is not based on the curriculum. 

Although not representative of the entire student body, student opinion is generally against group math tests. Sophomore Alba Mendis said, “[Group tests] encourage students not to excel. The group tests are only beneficial to the students who are not the best in the group.” When students take a group assessment, the teacher wants the students who know the math to help the students who are struggling. This penalizes good students because it holds them back from completing the test at their own pace, to their full potential, because they have to help the struggling students. Freshman Zach Shafer agrees, “There would always be someone slacking off and there would be no way to tell who was doing the work.” 

This is what caused the situation that Ms. Saddler, an Integrated Two and Three math teacher at La Jolla High, describes, “I once had a student in my Integrated Three math class who did not have sufficient knowledge of the Integrated Two material that was required to succeed in the Integrated Three class. The student told me that the only reason he or she passed Integrated Two was because of the group tests.” In other words, the students who generally struggle in the class falsely believe that they know the material better than they actually do, while in reality they only achieved those scores from the help of their peers, which is an insufficient measure of that individual student’s aptitude with the material. 

Altogether, group tests slow down the knowledgeable students to help their peers and enable unprepared students to receive scores on their tests that do not reflect their actual knowledge of the material. La Jolla High should not be a school that supports a system endorsing a lack of personal responsibility and penalizing excellence.