Eighth graders in the U.S. scored lower in history and civics than ever before, according to a report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, also known as the Nation’s Report Card.Embed from Getty Images
The report, released on Tuesday, showed that the average history score dropped by five points and the average civics score dropped by two points since 2018. Only 13% of students were proficient or above in history and only 22% were proficient or above in civics.
The declines were seen across various themes and topics in both subjects, such as democracy, culture, technology and the role of the U.S. in the world. The report also revealed that fewer students were taking classes focused mainly on U.S. history.
The report raised concerns about students’ understanding of citizenship and government, especially as they enter high school where civics and history are facing highly politicized debates over content and instruction.
“Self-government depends on each generation of students leaving school with a complete understanding of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship,” said Peggy G. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the assessment. “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.”
The report also added to the stark picture of eighth-grade performance across subject areas. Last fall, NAEP reported that scores for eighth graders in reading and math fell by a level not seen in decades.
Some experts attributed the declines to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced many schools to shift to remote or hybrid learning. Others pointed to other factors that could affect students’ performance, such as curriculum changes, teacher preparation and student engagement.Embed from Getty Images
“We are failing our children if we do not act now,” said Beverly Perdue, National Assessment Governing Board chair and former North Carolina governor. “Education leaders and policymakers must create opportunities for students to gain the knowledge and skills they need to catch up and thrive.”
The NAEP assessments are administered every four years to a nationally representative sample of eighth graders. The 2022 assessments were taken by about 8,000 students each in history and civics from 410 schools.
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