Educational Editorial: Social Studies

By Dr. William Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Tomorrow the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Pat Wright, will recommend to the Virginia Board of Education the elimination of the 3rd grade social sciences test. While administrators and teachers generally call for less testing, the reasoning behind this proposal makes sense.

The purpose of state assessment is to determine if young people have acquired basic skills. The Social Sciences in Virginia include four areas of study: geography, civics, economics, and history. When 5000 people commented on the original 1995 standards, they were primarily concerned about history. Whose history would be taught, with what interpretations, and when, or if, it had been revised?

The 3rd grade history test has always been difficult to develop because of the breath of the content. Young people need to know facts, AND memorization seems to be a lost instructional strategy; however, the early childhood tests should be used for diagnostic purposes rather than high stakes.

Under this proposal teachers will have the flexibility to integrate history into multiple content areas: actually content that reflects the way life works...through stories, not disciplines.

As for cost, the $380,000 anually used for the 3rd grade history test could be applied to the development of a new math test for high school students who are graduating without Algebra II.

History standards are important and will continue to be required; however, state testing should always reflect priorities. If students learn to communicate, they will clearly have an opportunity to understand history and to participate in the discourse that will shape its future.

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