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Push social studies, but not with another standardized test

As a high school history and civics teacher, I commend Michael Dukakis and Thomas Birmingham for bringing to light the neglect of social studies education in the Commonwealth (“Don’t know much about history,” Opinion, March 14). The No Child Left Behind era has marginalized subjects that do not have federal testing requirements, and social studies has been a victim of this process.

However, I am concerned that their prescribed solution of reinstating the MCAS US history requirement is not appropriate for this pressing issue. As is the case with many standardized tests, this may lead to a watering down of history and civics courses to simply memorizing the necessary facts to pass the test. This is not the type of civic education our students deserve, nor the type that will strengthen our democracy.

Instead, I believe that much opportunity lies in the upcoming review of the Massachusetts social studies curriculum frameworks, which were written in 2003. For example, it’s time to require that all high school students take a civics course before graduating and becoming voters.


While there is much work to be done, I hope we will not fall into the trappings of recent education history and rely on another standardized test as the solution.

Rob Powers