National History Test Results Aren't Too Hot, But Could You Pass the Exams?
When it comes to history, are you smarter than a fourth grader? The just-released results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress U.S. History 2010 Report Card show that of 30,000 students tested in 2010, only 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders, and 12 percent of seniors are proficient in American history. Federal officials celebrated a slight increase in scores for eighth graders since 2006, and scores for all grade levels are higher than they were in 1994, but only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question about Brown v. Board of Education, and only 9 percent of fourth graders could identify a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and give two reasons why he's important.
Why the dismal proficiency numbers? Linda K. Salvucci, a history professor at Trinity University and the chairwoman-elect of the National Council for History Education, told the New York Times that part of the problem is that teacher education programs make the mistake of certifying teachers with a general social studies credential instead of one in history. "They think they’ll be more versatile, that they can teach civics, government, whatever," she said. “But they’re not prepared to teach history."
Indeed, according to a recently released government report (PDF) on the education and certification of public high school teachers, only 63.8 percent of history teachers surveyed actually majored in history, and only 30.8 percent have a teaching credential in the subject. It's also hard to get students interested when teachers make history about memorizing facts when, as Salvucci says, it's actually "a way of thinking and organizing the world."
The other problem is that, thanks to No Child Left Behind's exclusive focus on reading and math results, too many elementary school students aren't being taught history at all because it's not measured on standardized tests. I'm pretty sure my own fourth grader would fail his grade level's exam.
So how tough are the questions? Here's one from the eighth grade test:
Which of the following best explains the trend shown in the graph above?
1. Farmers needed to grow less food.
2. The birth rate in the United States declined.
3. Farms became increasingly mechanized.
4. Farmers stopped planting because their soil was overused.
To get this question correct, students would either have to be skilled at deductive reasoning or have a teacher that actually taught about the industrial farming complex. Given that American students have long lacked proficiency in history, I'm not convinced most adults can score well on these questions—we did just have a national debate about the details of Paul Revere's ride. You can test yourself on questions from each of the three grade levels covered in the NAEP here.
photo via Wikimedia Commons
This Yoga-in-Schools Program Just Raised $31,000 in Crowdfunding R.I.S.E. introduces Bay Area teens to yoga, to help with self-image, grades, and other adolescent nightmares.
A New Olympics Just For Nomads Playing polo with a 100-pound goat carcass to save nomadic culture and build national pride in Kyrgyzstan.
New Detroit Program Trades Houses for Literary Excellence Write a House names Brooklyn poet Casey Rocheteau as first recipient of free home in Detroit
A Chance in Hell Yaks, America, and The Apocalypse Up against an $88 billion beef industry, it takes a leap of faith to raise yak in the United States.
Specialty Coffee Retailers Try to Prove They're Good to the Last Drop Searching for the perfect cup of sustainable and ethically produced joe. #NationalCoffeeDay
Metalhead Ballerinas Rock the U.K. Brutal Ballet slayed U.K. audiences last week with the debut of original choreography set to a metal cover of the Game of Thrones themesong.
You’re Now a Two-Minute Video Away from Getting into College
Goucher College will accept video applications in lieu of the traditional essays and test scores.
3 Epic Racial Profiling Blunders from History
Racial profiling not only harms innocent people of color, it can cause law enforcement to lose crucial time in pursuing the true criminals.
10 Overlooked Issues That People are Protesting This Week at the U.N.
The U.N. General Assembly is a magnet for protest from every race, color, and creed. Meet some of the people behind the picketing.
Why We Still Need the Nation State Overshadowed by international organizations, global commerce, and even individual cities, the nation state still has a vital role to play.
Flip-Flopping on Fats Health and sustainability concerns drive the two largest donut chains to change their policies on palm oil.
The Challenge of Branding a Life-Threatening Disease Can mitochondrial disease go mainstream? There are promising developments for mitochondrial disease in genetics and cellular therapies—now, if only it could get some buzz.