American Government High School Assessment May Be Eliminated

First introduced to high school students in 2002, the High School Assessments (HSAs) are a series of exams that students must pass to graduate from high school.  Under the No Child Left Behind Act, federal regulations require that students take the English and Algebra I HSAs.  In 2009 Maryland added biology and American government to the State’s roster of graduate requirements. With a proposed $1.9 million cut in education spending from Governor O’Malley’s budget, the American government exam may be eliminated. The Baltimore Sun reports:

State school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, who had pushed to make the High School Assessments a graduation requirement, said she is comfortable with the elimination of the exam because the state is now rewriting curriculum in all subjects, including social studies. A set of common national standards developed by the states are being put in place this year in Maryland, and national tests will follow in language arts and math beginning in 2014-2015. After that, the social studies test may be replaced with an exam developed by a consortium of states.

She said seniors would still have to show a passing score to graduate this year, and that students in grades nine through 11 would be encouraged to take the exam. The course would still be a requirement for graduation.

School system officials in Howard and Baltimore counties said the change would have little impact on the teaching of American government in their districts. Roger Plunkett, an assistant superintendent in Baltimore County, said the district has benchmark tests that are given periodically to see whether students are learning the material.

“Not having the state test will not stymie our progress in that area,” he said.

Clarissa Evans, executive director of secondary curricular programs in Howard, said the county tries to teach more than what the state requires students to learn on the American government test, so she doesn’t expect the county to change its curriculum.

She acknowledged, however, that some social studies teachers may not approve of the elimination of the exam. “There are going to be teachers who feel that by not being one of the big four HSAs that they are somehow diminished,” she said

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