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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

South Carolina's US History Test

Rock Hill School District students did poorly on last years US History test......but so did most of the state. Part of the problem is there is no specific class to take which is geared for the exam. I doubt the International Baccalaureate "History of the America's" covers US History the same way that AP US History does or the way other "non advanced" classes do.

This comment from Oconee County (SC) speaks to the test difficulty:
There is some concern regarding the US History assessment. Only about half of the students across the state passed this assessment, and the general trend is contrary to scores received by students taking the AP History Exam. Students who are successful in AP US History with a grade of  "A" and passing score on the AP exam typically make a "C" on the state's assessment.  So, we continue to look for ways to enhance performance in this area.

Really now, your best students, who are taking AP US History, only make a C on the exam? Does anyone else think there may be a problem with the test?

Our local paper had this comment in a recent editorial:
".... the high failure rate on this test is distressing. It indicates that students are graduating from the state’s high schools without a basic understanding of how our government operates and how the Constitution functions to protect the rights of all Americans.
Students can’t be expected to retain every historical date and detail thrown at them in the classroom. But they should come away with an overview of our nation’s history and how our system of government has evolved.
This could be a bad test that fails to accurately measure what students have learned. But simply dumbing down the test is not the answer either.
Students need an understanding of what used to be taught in civics class. History is not a pure science, but a history course should impart the whys and wherefores of how government works, the events that shaped the nation and the people who influenced those events.
We know teachers do their best to teach a lot of history in a limited time. And this test might be inadequate at measuring the outcome.
But the results are bad enough to raise questions about whether the schools are doing a satisfactory job of giving students the essential skills they need to be good citizens."
While I agree with their basic concern, I'm amazed that they didn't take their own advice. If the test is bad, how can you take anything away from it? Look at the sample questions below and see if any hit the mark on understanding civics and/or how government works.
Here are nine sample/released questions from the US History End Of Course Exam.  Could you pass the test?

1. Emily was born in the colonies. Her parents emigrated from England in the early 1700s. Her parents came because they were searching for freedom of religion and because her father wanted to work in a large city and make money by exporting agricultural goods. In which colony did Emily’s family live?
     A. Massachusetts
     B. Pennsylvania
     C. Connecticut
     D. Georgia

2. George Mason wrote in 1787 that “The purse and the sword must not be in the same hands.” Which principle in the U.S. Constitution best reflects the concern expressed in this quotation?
     A. due process of law
     B. popular sovereignty
     C. separation of powers
     D. independent judiciary

3. How did the concept of manifest destiny affect the relationship between the United States and Mexico?
     A. It inspired the defense of the Alamo.
     B. It discouraged settlement in California.
     C. It helped the United States justify the annexation of Texas.
     D. It prevented the United States from taking control of the Gulf of Mexico.

4. What did the Mexican Cession, “Bleeding Kansas,” and John Brown’s Raid have in common?
     A. All were examples of Manifest Destiny.
     B. All provoked increased debate over slavery.
     C. All were sparked by conflict with Native Americans.
     D. All helped Democrats win the ensuing presidential election.

5. Which philosophy of the early 1900s is expressed in the following quotation? “Nature’s cure for most social and political diseases is better than man’s.” –Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University
     A. socialism
     B. communism
     C. Social Darwinism
     D. Gospel of Wealth

6. Which weakness in the American economy of the 1920s contributed to the Great Depression?
     A. High taxation kept consumer spending at a low level.
     B. The richest Americans speculated in the stock market.
     C. Easy access to credit allowed many Americans to spend more than they earned.
     D. Businesses were unable to find enough skilled workers to operate new production machinery.

7. Read the headlines below and answer the question that follows.
            • U.S. Enters Korean War without Congressional Declaration
            • Gulf of Tonkin Resolution Approved
    Which political trend in the United States in the post-World War II period is reflected in these headlines?
     A. the increase in judicial activism
     B. the growing power of the presidency
     C. the upsurge in the domestic anti-war movement
     D. the rising threat of internal communist uprisings

8. How did the American workplace change as a result of scientific and technological breakthroughs after World War II?
     A. Wages for most workers increased, but wages for managers decreased.
     B. Opportunities for minorities to move into managerial positions expanded.
     C. The number of factory jobs expanded due to the development of the assembly line.
     D. The number of white-collar jobs increased, but the number of blue-collar jobs decreased.

9. What was a military outcome of Operation Desert Storm in 1991?
     A. The elimination of Kuwait’s oil resources in Iraq
     B. The capture of Baghdad by United Nations forces
     C. The occupation of Iraq and Kuwait by allied ground troops
     D. The forced removal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait by coalition forces


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