POLL FINDS PARENTS, TEACHERS AND STATE LEGISLATORS ALL SUPPORT REINSTATEMENT OF U.S. HISTORY MCAS GRADUATION REQUIREMENT
Three stakeholder groups overwhelmingly agree that Massachusetts should focus more attention on educating public school students in U.S. history
BOSTON – Strong majorities of Massachusetts parents, state legislators, and history and social studies teachers believe state leaders should move forward with plans to have U.S. history join English, math and science as subjects in which public school students should be required to pass an MCAS test in order to graduate from high school, according to a public opinion survey conducted by national pollster David Paleologos for Pioneer Institute.
The U.S. history MCAS graduation requirement was scheduled to be implemented beginning with this year’s graduating class. But in 2009, the state Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education recommended and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved postponing the requirement, citing the $2.4 million annual cost of administration. Neither has revisited the issue in the intervening three years.
Legislators are the strongest supporters of reinstating the history MCAS graduation requirement, with 64 percent of those polled either strongly or somewhat supportive of the measure. Sixty-three percent of history and social studies teachers and 59 percent of parents also believe it should be reinstated. Massachusetts is one of only nine states that don’t require students to demonstrate knowledge of history or civics to graduate from high school.
Seventy-seven percent of teachers and 74 percent of parents believe there is a connection between the subjects that are tested and those that are taught in school. In recent years, middle school social studies departments have been eliminated in Massachusetts and those courses are being taught by
English, math and science teachers. High schools are replacing history and social science electives with other subjects.
Instead of the connection between what is tested and what is taught, legislators were asked whether they believed the annual $2.4 million could be found to administer the MCAS history test. More than two-thirds (68 percent) believe it could.
By overwhelming margins ranging from 88 percent to 97 percent, all three groups agree that every Massachusetts public school student should study our nation’s founding and history. Nearly as large a majority – 84 percent of legislators, 83 percent of teachers and 82 percent of parents – believe Massachusetts should focus more attention on educating public school students in U.S. history.
The parent survey consisted of 500 Massachusetts residents who are likely to vote in the presidential election and have children under the age of 18 in their household. David Paleologos’ firm, DAPA Research, also polled 150 history and social studies teachers. Twenty-five legislators participated via personal interviews. All surveys were completed from May 1-9.
The poll results were released at Pioneer’s May 10th event, “The Power of the Supreme Court: A Civics Lesson.” Watch video clips of the keynote speakers and panel discussion: Jeff Shesol, former Clinton speechwriter and author;
Willard Sterne Randall, presidential historian; and, Thomas Birmingham, chief architect of Massachusetts’ 1993 education reform, and moderator of panel discussion.