Fourth, eighth and 12th graders understand more history and civics according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The new Nation’s Report Card compares students in 2006 to scores from 2001 in history and 1998 in civics.
Fourth graders made large gains.
. . . the percentage of fourth graders performing at or above the basic level in U.S. history increased from 64 percent in 1994 to 70 percent last year. In civics, the percentage scoring at or above basic climbed from 69 percent in 1998 to 73 percent last year.
The percent of 12th graders scoring at or above basic in U.S. history increased from 55 percent in 2001 to 61 percent in 2006. The National Assessment Governing Board, which conducts the regular test sampling of U.S. schools, said in a statement this was “the first time since 1998 that high school students have had a significant increase in achievement on a NAEP assessment.”
Analysts think fourth graders are reading better, making it easier for them to understand social studies. At the higher grades, the emphasis on raising reading and math scores doesn’t seem to have undercut history classes.
What do they know? In history:
* 46 percent of fourth graders identified Lincoln’s position on slavery from a well-known quotation
* 78 percent of eighth graders correctly interpreted a portion of the Gettysburg Address
* 67 percent of 12th graders knew that an important idea that helped shape the “Great Society” programs of President Lyndon Johnson was the belief that the federal government should play an active role in promoting social welfare.
* 75% of fourth graders knew that while non-citizens are able to do such things as drive a car, own a business, or write a letter to a newspaper, only citizens can vote in a presidential election.
* 63% of eighth graders understood that it is an abuse of power for a policeman to arrest someone merely because he “looks suspicious.”
* 50% of 12th graders identified which prevails when state and national laws conflict
OK, they’ve got a long way to go, but at least they’re moving in the right direction.