Magazine article USA TODAY

National Assessment Provides Thumbs Down

Magazine article USA TODAY

National Assessment Provides Thumbs Down

Article excerpt

"The latest eighth-grade U.S. history, civics, and geography results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress--the so-called Nation's Report Card--have been released and, as usual, things seem bleak: only 18% of students scored proficient in U.S. history, 23% in civics, and 27% in geography.

"These kinds of results, however, should be taken with a few salt grains because we can't see the full tests, and the setting of proficiency levels can be a bit arbitrary. Also, we don't... Oh, the heck with all that. As a fan of school choice, just tell me if private schools did better," says Neal McCluskey, director of the Center For Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, Washington, D.C.

Based on the raw data, they did: 31% of private school students were proficient in U.S. history, versus 17% of public schoolers; 38% were proficient in civics, versus 22% of public school kids; and 44% were proficient in geography, versus 25 percent of public school kids. 'That said, to really know which broad swath of schools did better--and from a parent's perspective, it is really only the individual schools from which they might choose that matter--you would have to control for all sorts of characteristics of their students. …

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