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Alleviating some of the test fatigue

Although we're only a few weeks into the school year, the first state standardized tests were scheduled to begin in six weeks, when fifth-graders would sit down to show how much they know about social studies.

That won't be happening this year.

The Board of Regents decided this summer to eliminate the fifth-grade social studies test in November, along with the eighth-grade social studies test in June.

Test After adding more and more tests over the years, this seems to be the first time in recent memory that the state has decided to eliminate any tests. The motivating factor? Money. The State Education Department estimates it will save about $800,000 by not offering the tests, which are among the few not required by the federal government under No Child Left Behind.

Depending on where you sit, the decision to axe the social studies tests could be good or bad.

Those in favor of the move say that the financial savings are just part of the good news. With two fewer tests to worry about, students and teachers will have that much less stress this year, some say. And teachers won't have to use those days to administer and score the test, meaning students might actually gain some instructional time because of the decision.

On the other hand, some say that which does not get tested ends up getting devalued. English and math, over the years, have become the primary focus of all the state testing, so schools have predictably placed much of their emphasis on those areas. Things like art and music are not the focus of any tests, so in some places, students are spending less time painting and singing, so that they have more time to bone up on their grammar and geometry.

Will the state's decision to drop the social studies tests result in any shifts in how instructional time is allocated this year? That remains to be seen.

-- Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee | [email protected]


Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes | [email protected]


Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone | [email protected]


Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB | [email protected]

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