The Wall Street Journal has an article about how NYC is reviewing one of it’s toughest test and whether or not it should be optional for graduation
The Board of Regents next week will consider state Education Department recommendations to make the global history and geography exam optional. Instead, students could take an additional math, science or vocational exam, starting with freshmen who enter high school in 2013.
“It’s a really important step,” Education Commissioner John King said Thursday. “There’s certainly going to be a lot of jobs in the future in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and this new pathway will encourage districts and schools to create additional opportunities for their students to pursue those areas.”
The Regents, who determine statewide education policy, will also consider another change: splitting the global history and geography exam, which covers two years of course work, into two exams that each cover one year. That would require additional funding.
While officials say the change is intended to boost college- and career-oriented education, the practical effect is that it could make graduating easier. Only 69% of students statewide received a passing score on the global history and geography exam in 2011, the lowest of any required exam.
This year is the first year students must pass five exams—U.S. history and government, science, math, English, and global history and geography—with a score of 65 to graduate with a Regents diploma. Previously, students could score a 55 on some exams.
Most four-year colleges require a Regents diploma.
Mr. King, however, said he didn’t anticipate the graduation rate would fluctuate because of the global history exam. He said recent higher standards for a lower-level diploma, known as a local diploma, didn’t have a major impact on how many students received that certificate. In addition, students can take the exams multiple times until they get a passing score.
The shift comes as part of a national push to improve science, math and vocational education. The Obama administration on Thursday said it wanted to spend $1 billion to support vocational education.
Districts can use federal grants to help struggling schools improve math, science and vocational courses.
Historians, however, said the move could hurt students’ ability to grasp an increasingly interwoven world.
“How do you understand immigration, for instance, which is a big problem, if you don’t know about the world?” said Wolf Schafer, director of the Stony Brook University Institute for Global Studies.
Luke Goodwin, a global history teacher at the Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy in the Bronx, said he supported making the exam easier but not optional.
“They’re basically attempting to learn all of history from the dawn of civilization until now in two years,” he said.