The NAEP results are in: And scores are flat, again. Once again, most students scored below the “proficient” level in U.S. history. Only twenty percent of fourth-graders, seventeen percent of eighth-graders, and a dismal twelve percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above proficient.
Scanning public reaction to the results, it’s clear that no one’s surprised. Our country’s lack of civic and history knowledge has been a mainstream news topic for decades.
More compelling are the why’s of low scores. As we see them:
- State U.S. history standards overwhelmingly lack important history content. They err on the side of muddled history without important context and specifics.
- Education schools and teacher preparation programs assume their students’ content knowledge, rather than fostering it.
- History has been crowded out to make room for the more tested subjects. As education historian Diane Ravitch notes: “Fewer than half of the students at this grade level have had more than two hours a week devoted to social studies, which may or may not mean history. More likely, they have learned about a few iconic figures and major holidays.”
US students score lower in history than in any other subject tested by NAEP. Perhaps it’s time we took a look at our standards and curricula?