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Back to Jan. Ed Reporter

High School Students Flunk History Tests

More than half of America's high school seniors do not know basic facts about U.S. history. The study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, otherwise known as the "nation's report card," tested children in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.

Only 43% of 12th graders were able to reach at or above the "basic" level of achievement. For the first time, the majority of 12th grade scores fell below the designated basic level of knowledge on the subject. Only 1 to 2% of all three grades tested reached the advanced level.

Only 64% of 4th and 8th graders reached the basic level, while 17% of 4th graders, 14% of 8th graders, and 11% of 12th graders reached the "proficient" level.

Experts explained that the poor results may be because the NAEP test is "much more rigorous than what most students are used to seeing in school, requiring greater historical knowledge, more writing, and application of analytical skills." An Education Department official explained that the test reflects both a grasp of the past and the ability to effectively reason in a democracy.

Other Education Department reasons for why the students did so poorly include differences in what is taught as U.S. history and the students' unfamiliarity with the type of question used on the test.

The test consisted of 60% writing and 40% multiple choice questions. Students whose parents had more education and students enrolled in private schools did better on the NAEP history exams.

Several educators said the test results indicate the need for adoption of national content standards. But others object to national standards even if voluntary, pointing to the anti-America, anti-Western bias in the "National Standards on U.S. History" financed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and endorsed by the National Education Association and other professional organizations.


 
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