Published Online: May 21, 2013
Published in Print: May 22, 2013, as 'Sequester' Affects Social Studies NAEP

Policy Brief

'Sequester' Affects Social Studies NAEP

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Talk about a teachable moment in civics class. National Assessment of Educational Progress, a.k.a. "the nation's report card," for civics, history, and geography is being scaled back as a result of the budget cuts required through sequestration.

The executive committee of the National Assessment Governing Board, on the recommendation of the National Center for Education Statistics, voted recently to indefinitely postpone the 4th and 12th grade NAEP in the three subjects for 2014. The exams will continue for 8th graders.

The move will help save $6.8 million. Sequestration hit nearly every federal agency, including the U.S. Department of Education, in March. The cuts are set to stay in place for the next 10 years unless Congress and the Obama administration are able to come up with a compromise on long-term spending.


In the case of NAEP, the sequestration cuts hit late in the federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. That meant that the board, which sets policy for NAEP, didn't have many areas to choose from, since money for activities like data collection had already gone out the door.

"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 NCES commissioner. Instead, he said the panel was "trying to make the best decision from a bad set of options." The executive committee kicked around other options, such as making cuts in the area of reporting and electronic dissemination, but decided none of those ideas would save enough money to be worthwhile.

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NAEP is voluntary in civics, history, and geography, but nearly every state participates, Mr. Buckley said.

Advocates for social studies education, who had actually been hoping NAGB would expand NAEP in social studies, are none too happy about the move. They say it will make it harder to gauge whether students are making progress in social studies, an area that some say has been overlooked in favor of reading, math, and even science.

"It's awful," said Susan Griffin, the executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies. "It's sending exactly the message that we've been complaining [about] for over a decade ... that these subjects aren't important."

Vol. 32, Issue 32, Page 20

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