State Of American Education: Eighth-Graders Struggle In History, Civics, And Geography


In the latest report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, no more than a quarter of eighth grade students scored at a proficient level or higher in history, geography and civics testing. The scores seemed unchanged since the last examination was administered in 2010.

The tests were taken by 29,000 eighth grade students across the nation. The government decided not to assess fourth and twelfth graders as it did the last time, due to budget constraints.

Terry Mazany, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, said that subjects such as history, civics and geography are core subjects and that they should be given a priority.

"They represent knowledge and skills that are fundamental to a healthy democracy," said Mazany. "The lack of knowledge on the part of America's students is unacceptable, and the lack of growth must be addressed. As a country, we must do better."

The results showed that 27 percent of eighth grade students are proficient in geography, 23 percent in civics and 18 percent in U.S. history.

Contrasted with the results of math and reading tests, Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said that a third of students are proficient in those subjects.

The test results underscore a deep concern among those who believe that a thorough knowledge of U.S. history, civics and geography is an integral component of a thriving democracy.

"History, civics and geography, essential for preserving democracy and the U.S. role in world affairs, may not be getting the attention they need," said Roger Beckett, executive director of Ashbrook Center, an Ohio-based nonprofit organization that studies education.

Aside from answering questions on certain key subjects, students were also asked to answer queries on the learning tools they use within the classroom. It turns out that only 64 percent use textbooks as reading material at least once a week — which is considerably lower than the 73 percent reported in 2010. As for using computers in history or social studies classes, the results increased from 18 percent in 2010 to the current 25 percent.

"If the next generation doesn't understand the causes and the purpose of our American Revolution, the reasons for the separation of powers in our government or the role of the states in our federal system, that generation isn't likely to notice when its liberties slowly slip away and will not be equipped to hold elected officials accountable," added Beckett.

Photo: Will Kay I Flickr

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