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
Should Society Fund Mindfulness? Putting taxpayer money toward meditation programs? It’s not as crazy as you might think.
Syrian Refugee Women Learn Self-Defense with Predictably Badass Results Two Arab-American women hope to empower Syrian women fleeing their home country’s conflict with physical training and emotional healing.
Achilles’ Password: Online Security’s Susceptible Straggler These new technologies promise to make your vulnerable passwords obsolete.
Guess Which Wealthy Country Can't Guarantee Access to a Basic Human Need? This week, Detroit's neediest had their water turned off. Here's what you can do about it.
If More Couples Smoked Weed, Would There Be Less Domestic Violence? Spouses who smoke weed are less likely to inflict physical, sexual, or psychological harm on their significant other.
Better Living Through Science: Women in STEM A look at pioneering women in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
How You Type Says a Ton About Your Emotional State This new computer program can see right through your poker face.
Let’s Do More. A Call-to Action by Gap CMO Seth Farbman Data shows that 24% of the 21 million Americans making minimum wage are working in retail, and 64% of those are women.
Meet the Self-Proclaimed President of Colombia’s Hottest Music Trend Champeta started as an outsider Afro-Colombian folk movement. Now it's taking over the country.
Cryptocurrency Regains its Reputation in Paradise Can a renowned tourist hub in Bali become a bitcoin wonderland?
Can a Miracle Fruit Overcome its Unsavory Reputation? Conservationists, farmers, and nutritionists are singing the praises of the breadfruit. If only it didn't taste so bad.
New App Could Tackle Hunger, Will Help You Find a Good Deal PareUp wants to connect food purveyors to thrifty consumers looking to score deals on unused, but still edible, items.