What Fewer Tests Could Mean for Your Child's Education

Are science and history less important than reading and math? Some Virginia lawmakers might seem to think so; the state Senate voted in January 2012 to pass a bill that would essentially eliminate standardized testing in science and history for third-graders. Would less testing have a negative impact on our children's education?

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Eliminating Testing 'Common Sense'?

There's little doubt that there's room for improvement when it comes to reading and math skills in our nation's children.

Results of federal standardized testing have shown that, for the most part, scores in these areas have in many states dipped, stayed the same or rose only slightly over the past decade or so. Substantial gains in either area have simply not been realized.

It's this that might have prompted Sen. John Miller of Virginia to tell the Daily Press in January: 'I believe it makes common sense to concentrate on reading and math, and give a good basic foundation in those two core subjects for our students.'

Sen. Miller is the sponsor of the bill that would remove standard science and history tests for third-graders in Virginia.

Other Subjects Crowded Out

Might a strong foundation in core subjects, particularly reading, lead to success in other areas? Reading, for example, encompasses all subjects. Strong reading skills could certainly help students read history textbooks and even word problems in math. And might strong math skills help in science?

In Maryland, middle schools are dropping traditional reading classes with the belief that literacy could be covered in other classes. Science, math and social studies teachers will have lessons during the week emphasizing reading.

So great is the emphasis on reading and math that, according to a survey by Common Core, an advocate for the teaching of all subjects in schools across the country, many public school teachers feel science, history, art and other subjects are being 'crowded out' by math and reading.

State testing is to blame, say 93% of those teachers. And 65% say they have had to 'skip important topics' in favor of 'required curriculum' that focuses on math and reading.

The Dark Side of Less Testing

Scaling back testing could conceivably result in teachers focusing on only one or two subjects while ignoring others...mainly, those on which students are not tested. This was the scenario that played out in a Texas elementary school in 2010.

In November 2011, The Huffington Post reported that the school, Field Elementary School in Dallas, submitted false scores for third grade science, social studies and other subjects while students were taught only math and reading during the previous year.

In Texas, third-graders take state assessment tests only in those two subjects. A school's status depends heavily on the results of these assessment tests.

Still, it appears that the bill in Virginia may be just the beginning. A recent educational reform bill proposed by House Republicans in Washington would, among other things, remove federal requirements for science testing.

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