Students don’t know much about American history, educators and historians told a Senate panel considering national testing in U.S. history. The Boston Globe reports:
National history and civics assessments show that most fourth-graders can’t identify the opening passage of the Declaration of Independence, and that most high school seniors can’t explain the checks-and-balances theory behind the three branches of the US government. Testifying in favor of proposed legislation, the history specialists — including renowned historian David McCullough — told a Senate education subcommittee that most of the country’s schoolchildren lack sufficient knowledge to become informed voters and don’t understand why they enjoy rights like free speech and freedom of religion.
A bipartisan bill would pay for 10 states to test eighth- and 12th-graders in history next year. The pilot test would be run by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which currently tests in history only every 10 years. That would change every four years under the bill.
The most recent NAEP history test in 2001 showed that “just 10 percent of high school seniors had an adequate grasp of important people, events, and concepts in American history, such as identifying America’s allies and enemies during World War II. One-third of fourth- and eighth-graders and nearly two-thirds of high school seniors did not meet a basic threshold of knowledge.”
When Congress reauthorizes the No Child Left Behind Act in 2007, Sen. Ted Kennedy pledges to add U.S. history testing to the requirements for reading, math and science tests.