Wednesday, March 11, 2009

R.I.P. History and Social Science MCAS

By now I'm sure that you've all heard the news; we social studies teachers are off the hook this year for MCAS. I have to admit, I have mixed feelings.

Since the redesign of the History and Social Science Curriculum Frameworks in 2003, there has been a marked level of stress and concern. The year 2003 saw a great shift in the frameworks. There was a huge switch to curriculum focused on U.S. History. It was a post-9/11 world and the frameworks reflected it. Districts spent thousands of dollars on new curriculums and teachers worked countless hours to develop new lessons to match with these changes. Fifth grade social studies was given 35 standards that covered pre-Columbian civilizations the causes of the Civil War. This is probably a freshmen year of college course in American history, but for ten year olds. The Department of Education let me know that my MCAS would be based on the material of fourth and fifth grade, and only up to standard 32 or so. No problem.......

It was my goal to meet this challenge head on. I tried not to think of how daunting it would be, I just tried every year to improve my teaching and see if it was really possible for me to cover all of these standards before MCAS. My greatest fear was that my students would encounter material on the test that I hadn't been able to cover. All the time, I wanted to make their learning of the material meaningful. (Being an active member of the TAH grant has certainly helped me with this!) I am proud to say that the majority of my students will tell you that social studies is FUN! And they do an amazing job at learning a great deal of material.

I felt like I was hitting my stride, and now they've cancelled the testing. According to the state, it is too expensive. Something has to go, and it's social studies. I have to wonder- we've only done trials of this test, and we've never received scaled scores, just raw scores. Time was running out before it was "to count" and be a graduation requirement. What does the state know that they aren't telling us? Were the students of Massachusetts bombing this test? Were the questions too picky? Why does it feel like social studies is the forgotten subject?

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