8th-Graders' History Scores Are a 'National Concern'

US history, civics scores hit record low in national assessment
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2023 12:47 PM CDT
8th-Graders' History Scores Hit Record Low
Many eighth-grades might struggle to name the person seen here crossing the Delaware.   (Smithsonian)

Far too many American students are failing to learn the basics about their country's history and how their government operates, according to the assessment known as the "Nation's Report Card." The average history score among eighth-graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) dropped five points between 2018 and 2022 to 258, the lowest on record, NPR reports. In 1994, the first year of assessment, the average score was 259. Civics scores also dropped for the first time in the assessment's history. According to the findings, only 14% percent of American eighth-graders are proficient in US history and 22% are proficient in civics.

NAEP carries out the assessment on a nationally representative group of students from more than 400 public and private schools every four years. Results released last year showed steep drops in reading and math scores. Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, called the history and civics results a "national concern," the Washington Post reports. Too many students, she said, are struggling to "understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government works and the historical significance of events."

The NAEP found that around 68% of eighth-graders are taking classes focused on US history, down from 72% in 2018, AP reports. Around half were taking classes focused on civics or government. In a statement, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the report "further affirms the profound impact the pandemic had on student learning in subjects beyond math and reading," though the Post notes that the decline in history scores began in 2014. Cardona added: "Banning history books and censoring educators from teaching these important subjects does our students a disservice and will move America in the wrong direction." (More education stories.)

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