May 18, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

8th graders’ test scores falling in civics and U. S. history, study shows

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8th-grade students performing at or above grade level in the study of civics and U. S. history declined from 2018-2022, according to The Nation’s Report Card, a report released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

U. S. History scores on the 2022 assessments were five points lower than those in 2018, with only 14% judged at or above Proficient (13% at Proficient and 1% at Advanced), the lowest level since 1994 when the test was initially given.  46% of students performed at the Basic level, defined as having partial mastery of knowledge and skills for performance at the NAEP Proficient level.  40% of students have less than partial mastery (NAEP does not have a definition for Below Basic).

Civics scores, measuring students’ understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, were down two points in the subject’s first decline ever in the test administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Only 22% of students tested at or above Proficient.

Some 8,000 students across all racial, ethnic, demographic, and income levels in 410 schools nationwide participated in the testing. Results for the nation reflect the performance of students attending public schools, private schools, Bureau of Indian Education schools, and Department of Defense schools.

Some sample questions:

In U. S. history:

For students performing at grade level, only 64% knew the correct answer was “A”

In civics:

Of students in all proficiencies, less than half, 45%, chose the correct answer “B”.

Researchers lay some of the blame for the results on the disruptions caused by the pandemic:

“All students who took the U.S. history assessment in 2022 were asked if they ever attended school from home or somewhere else outside of school for any duration during the 2020–21 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-four percent of students recalled learning remotely during the 2020–21 school year, while 18 percent reported they did not learn remotely, and eight percent did not remember.

“Of the 74 percent of eighth-graders who recalled learning remotely in the 2020–21 school year, smaller percentages of lower-performing students (scoring below the 25th percentile on the U.S. history assessment) reported that they had a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet available all the time; had a teacher available to help them with their U.S. history schoolwork every day; and participated in real-time video lessons with their teacher every day compared to their higher-performing peers (scoring at or above the 75th percentile).”

NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr finds the test results alarming for our democratic institutions:

“A well-rounded education includes a thorough grounding in democratic principles, and these assessments challenge students to show their knowledge and skills as they prepare to become full participants in American democracy. Self-government depends on each generation of students leaving school with a complete understanding of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.

“But far too many of our students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, and the historical significance of events. These results are a national concern.”

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