Saturday, June 19, 2010

State's Elementary and Middle School Social Studies Exams Are on the Chopping Block by Yoav Gonen -

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Regents Eye Axing Test

New York's social-studies tests may soon be history.

The annual history and civics exams given to public-school students in grades 5 and 8 are set to fall victim next week to state Education Department's budget cuts, The Post has learned.

The Board of Regents will likely vote to eliminate the tests -- given to more than 440,000 kids a year in New York -- as part of a plan to eliminate an $11.5 million deficit for the coming school year.

"Obviously, we are concerned," said city Department of Education spokesman David Cantor.

The social-studies tests were first administered statewide in 2001 as part of a Board of Regents effort to raise standards.

But unlike the annual English, math and science exams given to students in grades 3 to 8, the social-studies tests aren't mandated by the federal government's accountability system.

Judging by the measure up for approval Tuesday, eliminating the tests in the lower grades would spare some of the high-school Regents exams that had been on the chopping block several months ago -- including two in social studies.

The decision to spare some of the high-school exams stems from a meeting of state and union officials earlier this year, a memo written by Deputy Education Commissioner John King Jr. says.

"While there was no consensus of opinion among stakeholders, one message we heard fairly consistently was to try to avoid making cuts in assessments that would impact high-school graduation," he wrote. "To the extent practicable, the proposals included in this item respond to that request."

However, if Albany doesn't pony up an additional $7 million in next year's budget for the state's testing program, then a second series of cuts might eliminate all foreign-language Regents exams besides French and Spanish.

The secondary proposal also calls for eliminating the option for kids to take one of the Regents exams in January rather than June or August.