Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

History and civics testing

In 2006, students did marginally better in history and civics on the tests administered as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Here are the history and civics results, which are both rather unimpressive, to say the least. Consider, for example, this sequence of results in American history, in which no more than 2% of the students ever score at the advanced level and, by 12th grade, more than half score below basic. The results in civics are a little less disheartening, but, still, almost 30% or more of the students fall below basic.

Commentators in the NYT article want to talk about the emphasis in NCLB on reading and math. I’d love to have a conversation about the ability of public schools, relative to private and parental alternatives, to fulfill the civic mission that is offered as one of the principal arguments against school choice and vouchers.

Another conversation worth having would be based on the capacity of the schools to serve that civic mission for our legal, illegal, and legalized immigrant populations. Let’s talk about putting a civic education trigger in any "comprehensive" immigration reform.

Discussions - 1 Comment

Don't you think that the statistics could also be saying that students are becomming more accustomed to the test? Or teachers are doing a better job of teaching to the test?

As a high school teacher my stronger history students were among the lower scoring groups from the late 90s until 2002. My students since then have become increasingly less interested in history as a useful subject because of the poorly designed curriculum (especially 10th grade which doesn't focus on U.S. history and Civics at all) as well as standardized testing. I teach in a fairly affluent suburban community with most of my students (80+%) going on to a four year college. The state test that we give to 10th graders is more of a reading -process of elimination test than a history/civics test over specific content. Our school scores amongst the best in the state. In other words, since 2002 my students have come to view the test required to graduate from high school as incredibly easy and a waste of time. And that merely passing the test will make them a proficient or advanced history stident.

It is because of this that my social studies department has chosen to take matters into our own hands and redesign our 8th-10th grade curriculum to focus specifically on American History follwed with American Government and Civics junior year. Students would then take Advanced Placement courses during their senior year. I guess my simple point here is this. If students are stong readers and writers they will do well on the standardized test. Good citizens will have to be educated despite those tests.

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