Va. Ponders Eliminating Third-Grade History Exam

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In the seven years since enactment of the federal No Child Left Behind law, students have spent ever more time filling in bubbles on high-stakes tests. But Virginia could soon join a movement to roll back testing programs, as it considers abandoning an exam that spans such matters as bartering, the ancient empire of Mali and pie charts.

Florida and Georgia have cut testing budgets, citing financial pressures. North Carolina might soon follow. And today, the Virginia Board of Education will take up eliminating the third-grade history test, a move state officials say would open up time for core subjects such as math and reading. But critics say they worry that ditching the test would hurt history education in the primary grades.

For 11 years, Virginia has given third-graders a Standards of Learning history test. Forty multiple-choice questions cover material from kindergarten through third grade, which state officials say puts an unfair burden on the memories of young children.

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright predicted that teachers and administrators would welcome the change.

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