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.
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