U.S. History Education Falls Short; Calls for Improvement
The United States Department of Education recently released the national report card on history, which surveyed the performance of sample student groups in grades 4, 8 and 12 and found results were low and mostly unimproved from measures taken 4 years ago.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said of the results, “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.”
Only 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the national exam. The scores resulted in one of three categories– “basic” which refers to partial mastery of a subject; “proficient” denoting solid academic performance and demonstrated competency over challenging subject matters; and “advanced” for those who demonstrated superior performance.
Those performing at the basic level could identify the significance of many people, places, events, dates, ideas, and documents in U.S. history. Proficient performers were able to understand particular people, places, events, ideas, and documents in historical context, with some awareness of the political, economic, geographic, social, religious, technological, and ideological factors that shape historical settings. Those at the advanced level demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of events and sources of U.S. history.
Tests at the fourth grade level included 95 questions broken into six sections and included a mix of multiple-choice and constructed response answers. Eighth grade tests contained 166 questions divided into 10 sections and 12th grade tests included 159 questions divided into nine sections.
Analysis of the results were published in multiple news sources, including the New York Times which notes that most fourth graders were unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure. Other students were not able to say what the decision in Brown v. Wade addressed, even though the answer was given in the form of an accompanying quote.
Read more about the Nation’s Report Card and see the break-down of results for the different grade levels.