Kids may be learning something, but it isn’t U.S. history
by Ben Bullard
A new report gauging how well eighth-graders in the U.S. have learned their history and civics lessons reveals extremely low levels of proficiency across a range of student demographics.
In the latest iteration of its National Report Card, a project of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a scant 18 percent of American eighth-graders demonstrated a basic proficiency with U.S. history in 2014. They fared little better in other citizenship-related academic subjects like civics and geography.
The current version of the NAEP report card considers the performance of more than 29,000 eighth-grade students nationwide on assessment tests covering U.S. history, geography and civics. The NAEP conducts its report card study every four years.
While some demographics performed better or worse than in 2014, students’ overall performance, compared with the 2010 report card, was flat:
Nationally, eighth graders’ average scores on the NAEP U.S. history, geography, and civics assessments showed no significant change in 2014, compared to 2010 — the last assessment year. However, several student groups have made gains. In 2014, eighteen percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level in U.S. history, 27 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in geography, and 23 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in civics. Students performing at or above the Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter.
Even the best-performing subset of students, as a group, flunk miserably when it comes to knowing their U.S. history. Students of Asian descent did the best, but still managed only 33 percent proficiency in U.S. history. Black students brought up the rear, scoring 6 percent.
Unsurprisingly, students who attend private schools fared better than their public-school counterparts. Among private-school students, 31 percent demonstrated proficiency with U.S. history; 44 percent with geography and 38 percent with civics. Among public-school students, 17 percent demonstrated proficiency with U.S. history; 25 percent with geography and 22 percent with civics.
Check out the NAEP’s full interactive report card here.