By Ferguson, Dawn B.
Curriculum Administrator , Vol. 36, No. 10
In view of this month's election, it is interesting to know that according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, most American students have a weak grasp of the underlying principles of the U.S. Constitution and a lack of fundamental understanding of how governments operate.
NAEP conducted the first national assessment of students' civics and government knowledge in 10 years. Students in fourth, eighth and 12th grade were tested. About two-thirds of students in each of the three grades achieved at the "basic" level or above. Slightly more than 20 percent in each grade scored at the "proficient" level. However, just 2 percent of fourth graders and eighth graders rated "advanced," while 4 percent of 12th graders reached the advanced level.
Many experts believe the test results demonstrate that schools don't spend enough time on civics and government education. Therefore, students don't learn enough to become "proficient" or "advanced" according to the NAEP test.
"One of the major reasons students did not do well on the NAEP study is the vast majority are either not being taught civics and government at all, or they are being taught too little, too late, and inadequately," says Charles N. Quigley, the executive director of the Center for Civic Education. "Under these conditions, we can hardly expect them to do well on such a test."
On the assessment, 93 percent of the close to 6,000 participating fourth graders correctly identified Bill Clinton as the nation's president; 81 percent of 8,200 eighth graders knew of Martin Luther King Jr.'s role in history; and 90 percent of 7,800 12th graders said Social Security was a program to aid elderly citizens. …