The Georgia High School Graduation Exam

I have been observing the US History class of a Coach (I’ll call him Coach Y) (all of us History teachers are Coaches. It’s the only way that you can teach history in Georgia. I am going to coach cross-country and soccer. Coach Y is the assistant football coach. He was this high school’s Teacher of the Year, and I think he’s a damn good teacher.)

Coach Y, like most of the teachers in the high school, is constrained in what he can emphasize in his lectures and his assigned readings by the Georgia High School Graduation Test. His performance is going to be measured by how well his students score on the Social Sciences section of that particular test. His principal is going to be given some sort of report on how well her students did on the exam and somehow it is going to reveal what segment of the student population that did well or poorly on the exam passed through Coach Y’s classroom.

What this leads to is a very narrowly focused discussion, and not a lot of room to talk broadly about the subject. Example- the question on the High School Graduation Exam is ¦Name one event that was a primary factor in causing the US to enter World War I.² And the answer the test is looking for is either going to be ¦The Zimmerman Telegram² or ¦The Sinking of the Lusitania.² SO- Several times during the class, Coach Y reiterates, ¦Class, name two events that were key in entry of the US into World War I- the sinking of the What?²

¦LUSITANIA² they answer.

¦And the What telegram?²


I suppose that the introduction of the Georgia High School Graduation test is one way to try and measure the effectiveness of the educational system in Georgia, but it sure seems like a perfect example of the phenomenon of Bureaucratic Drift to me, ie- where a test or evaluation system is created to measure an institutionÃs effectiveness and the institution responds by conforming exactly to meet the standards measured by the test. The end result is the shallowing out of the studentsà learning experience. What they learn about history is not that it’s the best way to know who we are as a culture by seeing where we come from, but instead that itÃs best to know history so that one can pass the test.

I guess that it canÃt be helped, but it does seem a bit sad to me that this test that was created to try and improve the quality of these childrenÃs education has served in some cases to do exactly the opposite.


Well, I guess I should introduce the new look and the new subject matter-
My name is Patrick and I am currently studying to be a teacher. I am in one of those fast-track masters programs, where I have a BA in the subject matter (in this case, History) and I go to school all summer to learn how to make lesson plans and how to do grades and that sort of thing.

I have been observing classes for the past two weeks as the kids get ready to get out for summer. It’s been interesting.

I am aware that some of the teachers that are in the schools already (that spent four years in college and ran up great big student loan debts) kind of resent those of us that are coming in with the crash course program. They call us “Microwave Teachers.” I hope to do well enough to dispell some of their concerns when I get there.

I will be recording some of my impressions here about the process and about teaching when I (hopefully) get there in the Fall.

Comments are welcome!