Blog: The Educated Reporter

Forced Federal Budget Cuts Means Fewer Students Tested in Social Studies

I was interested to read over on the Politics K-12 blog about plans to scale back national exams in social studies as a result of sequestration, a move that might save money in the short term but educators say could do long-term damage to efforts to cultivate a more informed citizenry.

Beginning next year, the National Assessment of Educational Progress in three subjects — civics, history, and geography – is expected to be “indefinitely” postponed for students grades 4 and 12, although eighth graders will continue to take the exam, reports Education Week blogger Alyson Klein. That move, in response to the forced federal budget cuts triggered by the sequester, will save $6.8 million. From Politics K-12:

“I don’t think it was any particular lack of interest in social studies,” on the part of the executive committee, said Jack Buckley, the (National Center on Education Statistics) commissioner. Instead, he said the panel was “trying to make the best decision from a bad set of options.”

The decision to cut back the NAEP, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” probably won’t be surprising to civics teachers like Derek Vandergrift of Waltham High School in Massachusetts. Last year I interviewed Vandergrift, an award-winning Milken Educator, about how the nation’s academic priorities had shifted under No Child Left Behind. He told me he had seen money pulled away from civics and put toward reading, writing and mathematics — the core subjects covered on the high-stakes exams required under the federal education law. Now it seems civics is being hit yet again — this time as a result of what Politics K-12 termed “Brokedown Congress.”

Pro Publica recently put out Everything We Know About What’s Happened Under Sequestration, and the education section focuses on cuts to Head Start programs and how the reduction is hurting schools on American Indian reservations that are heavily dependent on federal dollars. I’ve also written about how the sequester is continuing to cause headaches for states and districts, and how the poorest schools face the deepest cuts. 

For more on federal funding, check out EWA’s Story Starters resource. You might also want to check out my post from April examining the question of whether high school students should be required to pass a citizenship test.