Report Card Shows Small Gains in U.S. History Proficiency

On May 16, 2007, two reports were released — The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2006 and The Nation’s Report Card: Civics 2006 — detailing the achievement of America’s fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in U.S. history, which was last assessed in 2001, and civics, last assessed in 1998.

Overall achievement showed small, but steady gains, at all grade levels in U.S. history, and at the fourth-grade level in civics. However, the report showed that civics achievement for eighth and 12th-graders has not changed significantly since 1998. In addition the history report showed that only 30 percent of fourth-graders, 35 percent of eighth-graders, and 53 percent of twelfth-graders scored above the basic proficiency level.

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, the mixed performance shown in the two reports will add to the debate as to whether the law’s current emphasis on reading and math skills has detrimentally affected the study of history and the social sciences by the nation’s students.

In U.S. history, White, Black, and Hispanic student groups at all grade levels have increased achievement since 1994. However, achievement has not changed for Black students at any grade level or for Hispanic 12th-graders since 2001.In addition, White-Black and White-Hispanic achievement gaps in U.S. history have narrowed since 1994 in fourth-grade, though the gaps have remained relatively unchanged since 2001.

The reports are published by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education. The 2006 NAEP assessment in U.S. history was administered by the National Center for Education Statistics to a nationally representative sample of 29,000 students at grades four, eight, and 12. The 2006 NAEP assessment in civics was administered to a nationally representative sample of more than 25,000 students at grades four, eight, and 12.

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