Hooray for the Mississippi Board of Education in rejecting a recommendation that it eliminate the U.S. History exam from the state tests students are required to take.
The case for shelving the exam was dubious from the start. It was based on a survey of high school teachers who said by a 3-to-1 margin that their students shouldn’t have to take the test. Of course the teachers don’t like it because the results are used — properly so — to judge not only how much the students are learning but also how much the teachers are teaching. Who wants accountability if you can avoid it?
Keeping the test also sends the signal to students that learning the history of this nation is important. Given the abominably low level of historical knowledge among the general population, it would have been a mistake to de-emphasize the subject even more.
While no one likes the idea of having students take more tests, it may be worth reconsidering a graduation exam or an end of course test to verify that students have actually learned the material. The state’s graduation rate has increased significantly over the last few years without the graduation exam, but are we sure that students are learning more than their predecessors?
Without some kind of overarching test, can we verify whether the students have basic competency so they are prepare for the workforce or for college? When you get your driver’s license, you have to prove you know the rules of the road. If you don’t pass the test, you can’t get a learner’s permit or a license. If you can’t prove you know the basics of math, reading, science, etc., you shouldn’t get a diploma.