Eighth-Graders Struggling with Basic U.S. History, Civics

By Russell, Jason | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, April 29, 2015 | Go to article overview

Eighth-Graders Struggling with Basic U.S. History, Civics


Russell, Jason, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Less than one-in-five eighth graders have a proficient grasp of United States history, and less than a quarter have a proficient grasp of civics, according to new government data released Wednesday.

Overall, the average scores for eighth-graders are not significantly better or worse than they were in 2010, the last time the National Assessment of Educational Progress examined eighth- graders' knowledge of geography, civics, and U.S. history.

One question from the test gave a partially-completed table with the three branches of government and asked students to identify each branches' power and one way other branches limit that power.

Only 7 percent of students got complete credit for the question, with another 10 percent giving acceptable answers in three of the four empty boxes.

Another multiple-choice question asked about the landmark 1803 Supreme Court case, Marbury v. Madison. Despite being given four choices, only 41 percent of students correctly responded that the court's decision established its own power to decide whether a federal law is constitutional.

One percent of students have an advanced knowledge of U.S. history, while two percent are considered advanced in civics and three percent in geography.

Compared to the first assessment in 1994, eighth-graders average test scores are slightly higher in history, and slightly improved from the first civics assessment in 1998.

Students also answered survey question about their classroom activities. When studying civics, less than half of students discussed current events in class, fewer than in 2010. Fewer students also read textbooks in class or took part in role-playing activities, while more watched videos and used computers at school. Just 7 percent of students took part in a mock trial or other type of role-playing activity

When studying history, less than two out of three students read textbook material in class. …

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