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Mass. Mulls, Maryland Moves On Social Studies Graduation Requirement

Last month, my colleague Erik Robelen reported to you that states are increasingly adding subjects other than mathematics and English/language arts to their federal accountability systems. These plans surfaced in their applications for waivers from the central provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Of course, adding subjects to a state or federal accountability system is one way to reverse the trend of focusing so heavily on math and ELA. Another is to hold students—as opposed to schools or districts—accountable. That seems to be the tack Massachusetts and Maryland are taking in social studies.

Massachusetts plans to add science to its accountability system, as Erik reported. But it also plans to reinstate a test in U.S. history, which students would have to pass in order to graduate from high school. A recent survey taken by the Pioneer Institute found large majorities of parents, state lawmakers, and history and social studies teachers in favor of the plan. According to the state department of education's website, Massachusetts already requires students to pass a science test to graduate. It decided to do the same in U.S. history, but has put off implementing it because of cost concerns.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a law this week that will reinstate a requirement that high school seniors pass a test in U.S. government in order to graduate. That exam was dumped last year due to budget cutbacks, but it's back in play: the class of 2017 will be subject to the new requirement.

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