The National Assessment of Educational Progress, part of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, today released The Nation’s Report card for history in our schools. Only about one in four students is “proficient” in history.
Twenty percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders, and 12 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the proficient level on the 2010 U.S. history assessment. Those numbers haven’t budged considerably in decades.
There are a few bright spots. In grade 8, scores for black and Hispanic students were higher in 2010 compared to all previous assessment years and the score gaps between these students and their white peers narrowed since 2006. At grade 12, scores for white, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander students were higher in 2010 than in 1994.
History isn’t stressed in schools — not like reading and math — and our kids show it. Only 9 percent of fourth graders could identify a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and state two reasons for his importance.
Some educators blame the The No Child Left Behind Law for a reduction in attention paid to history.
“They’ve narrowed the curriculum to teach to the test. History has been deemphasized,” Lee White, executive director of the National History Coalition, told the Huffington Post. “You can’t expect kids to have great scores in history when they’re not being taught history.”
True. But No Child Left Behind wasn’t enacted until 2001. Today’s report compares test results to 1994. Some scores were higher than then; some were lower, but none changed very much.
Here are examples of some of the question 12th graders have been asked in recent years. Try your luck.
Here’s a copy of the complete report.
In the first hour of the program on Friday, MPR’s Midmorning will consider our weak history knowledge. Guests are: Brian Balogh, professor in the department of history at the University of Virginia and co-host of the radio show “Backstory: With the American History Guys” and Rick Shenkman, author and historian. He is editor and founder of George Mason University’s History News Network, and author of several books, including “legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History.