Report: US Students' History, Civics Hit Record-Low

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The Facts

  • Data released Wednesday by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that in 2022, only 13% of eighth-grade students in the US scored proficient or above in history, while only 22% were proficient or above in civics.

  • This represents a five-point drop from scores in 2018 for history and a two-point drop for scores in civics, the lowest scores since the NAEP began testing for civics in 1998.

The Spin

Democratic narrative

Republican-led states are defunding education to advance their so-called "school choice" agenda and censor material they find distasteful. As censorship of topics relating to race and LGBTQ+ issues has accelerated under the guise of "parents’ rights," it's no surprise that understanding of history and civics has become a casualty as students become pawns in a culture war. Students can recover from the pandemic-induced drop in learning but not from a methodical dismantling of America's public education system.

Republican narrative

Leftists and their bureaucratic education system have nobody to blame but themselves, as their draconian COVID policies educationally stunted the next generation of Americans. Beholden to teacher's unions, Democrat-run states that kept their students away from the classroom longer suffered more than states that kept their schools open. Charter and religious schools outperformed public schools during the pandemic, showing a course correction on education policy toward choice and freedom is long overdue.

Cynical narrative

The NAEP results are routinely trotted out to advance political agendas by people with little understanding of what they actually mean. On state and local levels, "proficient" means at grade level, whereas the NAEP uses proficient to indicate an advanced understanding of the material. There is also evidence that the NAEP standards are too high to be an accurate measure of competency, as half of the students at a "basic" level end up receiving a Bachelor's Degree. Any decline is bad news, but we ought to be skeptical of any apocalyptic messaging based on these numbers.

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