Social studies, science seem to matter less

An editorial from The Journal     

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An excellent example of why the federal government should not be permitted to dictate education policy is being provided right here in West Virginia.

U.S. Department of Education officials monitor mathematics and English performance in public schools more closely than social studies and science, it has been reported. So, teachers and students in Mountain State schools are going to get more time to spend on those subjects.

From where in the school calendar will that time come? From time formerly allotted for standardized testing in social studies and science.

State Board of Education members agreed last week to reduce social studies and science testing. They did so after hearing complaints from teachers, students and parents about the amount of time spent on standardized tests of all types.

Fortunately, board members agreed to the change only for this spring’s round of standardized tests. They will look at the issue again in the future.

Meanwhile, it is possible West Virginia students’ achievement in social studies and science will continue to decline.

Yes, decline. During the 2012-13 school year, 38.4 percent of public school students achieved “proficient” scores in social studies testing. Last year, the percentage was down to 36.5 percent.

In science testing, 41.1 percent were deemed proficient during the 2012-13 year. That dropped to 40.6 percent last year.

Obviously, high school graduates need to be proficient in math and English. But they need grounding in social studies and science, too. So why the added emphasis on the first two subjects?

It is because of federal emphasis on math and English. If U.S. Department of Education officials are not happy with how West Virginia schools are performing, they can cut federal funding for West Virginia.

That is a social studies lesson:Though the Constitution gives Washington no authority over education, it has seized the power to tell every state how to run schools.

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