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Regents Geometry question to be rescored after teen finds flaw

Eleventh-grader Ben Catalfo, 16, of Setauket, seen here

Eleventh-grader Ben Catalfo, 16, of Setauket, seen here on July 18, 2017, said he discovered a flaw in a question on the Regents Geometry exam. The state's education department has since said it will give all students credit for the question. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

After an East Setauket teen uncovered a flaw in a Regents Geometry exam question earlier this month, the question will be rescored to give all students credit.

The question did not have “one clear and correct answer,” according to a notice posted on the state Education Department website.

Question 24, which looks at two mathematically similar triangles, had a “discrepancy in the wording,” according to the note, which was sent to teachers Tuesday.

Originally, students who marked answer choice 2 were given credit for the multiple-choice question. Now, all students who took the June 16 test, including those who did not select an answer, should receive credit for the question, according to the note.

“We re-examined the issue and decided the fairest course of action is to provide credit to all students for the question regardless of their answer,” Education Department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said in a statement Tuesday, adding the department will continue to work with educators “to further improve our assessments.”

Ben Catalfo, 16, a math whiz who passed the exam in the seventh grade, first noticed the discrepancy while he was reviewing the test in order to tutor geometry students, he said.

Catalfo, an incoming junior at Ward Melville High School, was stumped by the question. According to his math, none of the choices listed was correct.

Last week, the Education Department acknowledged Catalfo’s finding was correct, but said he used concepts that are beyond the scope of the geometry course and typically taught in more advanced high school or college courses.

“Mr. Catalfo is clearly an exemplary student of math with skills far above most students his age,” DeSantis said last week.

The exam questions are written by experienced geometry teachers and field-tested with a representative group of geometry students in schools across the state.

On July 17, Catalfo started an online petition calling on state officials to have the question marked correct for all test takers. It now has more than 2,700 signatures.

“I think it shows a lot of humility and it was the right thing to do,” Catalfo said after learning the question would be rescored. “I’m really happy, but I’m sure the students who took the test are a lot more happy than I am.”

The department previously acknowledged that two other questions on the geometry exam had more than one correct answer. For question 14, students who picked choice 3 or choice 1 received credit. For question 22, all students should receive points regardless of their answer, the department said.

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