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Home » Issues » State, National Results Mixed: Latest Results on Nation’s Report Card Underscore Uniquely American Problem

State, National Results Mixed: Latest Results on Nation’s Report Card Underscore Uniquely American Problem

While increased student achievement is and should be the major goal of school reform efforts, recent data revealing our students’ lagging civics knowledge – particularly in a time of increased international and national uncertainty – stands out as a continual black mark on the US and thus on its economic and national security.

According to an evaluation of civics test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, students are not learning the skills critical to being responsible citizens in America’s democracy.

“We as a nation are well below our goal,” said Jeanne Allen, president of The Center for Education Reform (CER). “How can we compete in a global society when student’s fail at understanding the foundation of the American political system? Meanwhile students in other countries are required to master their nation’s history as a condition of graduation.”

Compared to 1998, fourth graders in 2010 gained 4 points to post a 27 percent proficiency rate in civics, while 12th graders declined a few points to 24 percent. That means that nearly three quarters of all US students cannot correctly answer basic questions about their nation, its laws and practices. While fourth graders posted the highest civics score since 1998, high school seniors in 2010 scored lower than in 2006. Eighth graders showed no significant change in overall score.

About the Civics Assessment: Students were tested on three interrelated components: civic knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills, and civic dispositions. Results were reported as average scores on a 0 to 300 scale and as percentages of students scoring at or above three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The majority of students in each grade have only been performing at Basic level. Proficient level is widely recognized as grade level.

In other news, results from Florida’s annual test, the FCAT, showed continued gains and increased mastery on the writing assessment. These state tests mirror NAEP results earlier this year, when Florida students were part of the first computer based writing assessment. While writing isn’t civics, it is clear that states that implement significant reforms in choice and accountability see better student performance.

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