Student History Scores Too Low for Comfort

Blackboard and American flag

Test scores, particularly in history, are way down in American schools.
Image: Shutterstock

Recent scores from civics, geography, and U.S. history tests administered to eighth-graders were, to say the least, disappointing. Results from the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that only only about 25% of students were able to demonstrate proficient knowledge in these subjects, the same score as in 2010. With the increase in accessibility to news around the world, it’s important that students learn history and understand the world around them; without this knowledge, our nation’s future suffers.

The questions students were asked in the 2014 test concerned democracy, culture, and world roles, but did not ask about technology—a field students are more likely to be familiar with, perhaps in lieu of learning about history. Additionally, budget cuts have narrowed course selection for students, with emphasis on STEM education rather than the humanities. Part of the problem is also a reduced focus on history and states like Oklahoma who want to eliminate the A.P. U.S. History curriculum altogether.

According to the test results, only 27% of students were proficient in geography, and scores didn’t change between 1994 and 2014. But some schools want to initiate change in curricula and help students understand history and geography better by making civics education mandatory. Students would need to pass a civics test to graduate, says US News. History needs to be kept in the curriculum and students should be able to establish competency in civics.

Ted McConnell, executive director of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of School, is troubled by the tests’ results and statistics in students’ history aptitude overall. “Barely a quarter to a third of students being able to demonstrate a frankly easy proficiency in these subjects is dangerous to the health of our republic,” he says.

Hopefully if schools begin to place more emphasis on the importance of history and geography, test scores will go up, and general social awareness will become a staple of student education and mindset.


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