History Buzz June 14, 2011: K-12 Students Score Low on Nation’s Report Card US History Tests


History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


“The history scores released today show that student performance is still too low. These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education.” — Education Secretary Arne Duncan

  • Report: Students don’t know much about US history: U.S. students don’t know much about American history, according to results of a national test released Tuesday.
    Just 13 percent of high school seniors who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress — called the Nation’s Report Card — showed solid academic performance in American history. The two other grade levels tested didn’t perform much better, which just 22 percent of fourth-grade students and 18 percent of eighth-graders scoring proficient or better.
    The test quizzed students on topics ranging from colonization, the American Revolution and the Civil War to the contemporary United States. For example, one question asks fourth-graders why it was important for the U.S. to build canals in the 1800s…. – AP, 6-14-11
  • U.S. Students Remain Poor at History, Tests Show: American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.
    Over all, 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Federal officials said they were encouraged by a slight increase in eighth-grade scores since the last administration of the history test, in 2006. But even those gains offered little to celebrate, because, for example, fewer than a third of eighth graders could answer even a “seemingly easy question” asking them to identify an important advantage American forces had over the British during the Revolution, the government’s statement on the results said…. – NYT, 6-14-11
  • Less than a quarter of students proficient in history: U.S. students are making some gains in their knowledge of American History, but less than a quarter are scoring at or above the proficient level, according to a report released on Tuesday.
    The results of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed just 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders, and 12 percent of twelfth graders were performing at or above the proficient level.
    The study defines the proficient level as representing solid academic performance and competency.
    Even so, for students in the fourth and eighth grades, average scores were the highest since 1994, when the study was first conducted.
    The average score for high school seniors, which had been rising in the period from 1994 to 2006, showed a two points drop since then on the 500 point scale used for the tests…. – Reuters, 6-14-11
  • History-Test Scores Show Scant Progress: Fewer than a quarter of American 12th-graders knew China was North Korea’s ally during the Korean War, and only 35% of fourth-graders knew the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, according to national history-test scores released Tuesday.
    The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that U.S. schoolchildren have made little progress since 2006 in their understanding of key historical themes, including the basic principles of democracy and America’s role in the world.
    Only 20% of U.S. fourth-graders and 17% of eighth-graders who took the 2010 history exam were “proficient” or “advanced,” unchanged since the test was last administered in 2006. Proficient means students have a solid understanding of the material.
    The news was even more dire in high school, where 12% of 12th-graders were proficient, unchanged since 2006. More than half of all seniors posted scores at the lowest achievement level, “below basic.” While the nation’s fourth- and eighth-graders have seen a slight uptick in scores since the exam was first administered in 1994, 12th-graders haven’t…. – WSJ, 6-14-11
  • Federal report shows history scores rising slowly: Most fourth-graders who took a national U.S. history test last year were likely to be stumped if asked to identify a picture of Abraham Lincoln and give two reasons why he was important.
    A majority of eighth- graders would have had trouble articulating an advantage American forces had over the British during the Revolutionary War. And most 12th-graders were likely to miss if asked why the United States entered World War I.
    Those findings were included Tuesday in the first federal readout on history achievement in four years.
    Average scores for history on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — the federally funded series known as the nation’s report card — have risen slowly since 1994. But the portion of students who fail to reach a basic level of achievement remains larger than the share rated as proficient or advanced, particularly for high school seniors…. – WaPo, 6-14-11
  • Many Children Still Don’t Know Much About History: The good news: “At all grades, the average U.S. history scores in 2010 were higher than the scores in 1994, and the score for eighth-graders was also higher than in 2006.”
    The bad news: “Less than one-quarter of students perform at or above the ‘proficient’ level in 2010.”
    That’s the word this morning from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, part of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics…. – Huff Post, 6-14-11
  • David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board in his Statement: “We are encouraged by the progress of our fourth and eighth graders, particularly by the gains being made by students who traditionally have been among the lowest performers. We need to bring even more of these students up to the Proficient level, and we want to see more progress overall by our twelfth graders, who will soon be active citizens.”
  • Diane Ravitch, an education historian who was invited by the national assessment’s governing board to review the results, said she was particularly disturbed by the fact that only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question concerning Brown v. Board of Education, which she called “very likely the most important decision” of the United States Supreme Court in the past seven decades. “The answer was right in front of them,” Ms. Ravitch said. “This is alarming.”
  • Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University and former U.S. assistant education secretary: “We need to make sure other subject like history, science and the arts are not forgotten in our pursuit of the basic skills.”
  • Sue Blanchette, president-elect of the National Council for Social Studies, a national association of K-12 and college social-studies teachers: “Everyone is going to participate in civic life by paying taxes, protesting against paying taxes, voting, and we must teach our children how to think critically about these issue. Clearly, we are not doing that.”
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