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Going Down in History

The latest NAEP scores show that the nation’s youth are woefully ignorant about U.S. history and civics.

Club 14 Fitness

Opinion

By Larry Sand

05-09-23

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – also referred to as The Nation’s Report Card – is a test that measures the knowledge of American students in a variety of areas. In November 2022, the scores released for the test taken earlier in the year showed that just 33% of the nation’s fourth graders are proficient in reading, and 36% are proficient in math. The eighth graders did even worse: 31% are proficient in reading, while a painful 26% show proficiency in math. According to the report’s authors, “the national average score declines in mathematics for fourth and eighth graders were the largest ever recorded in that subject.”

And now, the results of the NAEP U.S. history and civics test, also taken in 2022, have been released. According to the data, just 13% of eighth graders met proficiency standards for U.S. history, meaning they could “explain major themes, periods, events, people, ideas and turning points in the country’s history.” Additionally, about 20% of students scored at or above the proficient level in civics. Both scores represent all-time lows on these two tests.

The multiple choice questions on the NAEP are very basic, such as, “Which of the following reasons best explains why many people supported the Eighteenth Amendment, which banned the sale of alcohol?” Another asks, “What were European explorers such as Henry Hudson looking for when they sailed the coast and rivers of North America in the 1600s?”

Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics – the organization that creates, designs, develops, and implements the NAEP – told reporters that while the unprecedented reversal in civics was “alarming,” even more distressing were the history results. While many analysts rushed to blame the Covid-induced school closures for the abysmal showing, Carr pointed out that the problems far predated the pandemic. “For U.S. history, I was very, very concerned. It’s a decline that started in 2014, long before we even thought about COVID. This is a decline that’s been [going] down for a while.”

It’s worth noting that it’s not only the English, math, history, and civics NAEP scores that are plunging. The national average score on the 2022 ACT, a college admissions test, fell to 19.8 out of 36, down from 20.3 in 2021, according to data released in October 2022 by the nonprofit that administers the test. As the Wall Street Journal explains, “Those in charge of American education may be inclined to use the pandemic lockdowns as an excuse, and two years of Zoom classes no doubt hurt. But this is the fifth consecutive year that ACT scores have declined, and the first time the average score has dropped below 20 since 1991. English scores fell to 19 out of 36, down from 19.6 last year.”

Miguel Cardona, the U.S. Secretary of Education, weighed in on the NAEP  results, explaining that the poor scores “further affirms the profound impact the pandemic had on student learning in subjects beyond math and reading.”

But then Cardona veered off and proclaimed nonsensically, “Now is not the time for politicians to try to extract double-digit cuts to education funding, nor is it the time to limit what students learn in U.S. history and civics classes. We need to provide every student with rich opportunities to learn about America’s history and understand the U.S. Constitution and how our system of government works. Banning history books and censoring educators from teaching these important subjects does our students a disservice.”

What does keeping a six-year-old from being exposed to books with sexual themes have to do with banning books and censorship? Additionally, we are pouring record amounts of cash into the education bottomless pit, and it hasn’t done much to help.

While there’s no doubt that the forced Covid shutdowns did damage, there are other reasons that students are not learning what and how they have traditionally learned. As scholars Lance Izumi and Wenyuan Wu write in “Why Are Student Test Scores Plunging? Look at Politicized Education,” many students report increased ideological indoctrination in the classroom, which is leading to weaker standards and lower expectations. “One California student reported that a teacher at his school told the class that perfectionism and striving for perfection was part of white supremacy culture. Another one of his teachers ‘made it seem like it was bad to have a good work ethic or to be supportive of meritocracy.’ In his school, grades were inflated, low grades were eliminated, late assignments were allowed, and multiple retakes of exams were permitted. Rigor simply disappeared.”

Here are a few examples of race- and sex-infused woke twaddle being forced down the throats of American children:

– In Buffalo, NY, students are told that “all white people” perpetuate systemic racism, and kindergarteners were forced to watch a video of dead black children, warning them about “racist police and state-sanctioned violence” which might kill them at any time.
– West Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut have begun to introduce gender ideology in kindergarten as part of what it calls “social justice lessons.”
– The principal of a school in New York City sent white parents a “tool for action,” which tells them they must become “white traitors” and then advocate for full “white abolition.”
– In Seattle, there was a training session for teachers in which schools were deemed guilty of “spirit murder” against black students.
– In Springfield, MO, teachers are trained that people are given a “biological sex assigned at birth,” which often conflicts with their “gender identity” and “gender expression.”
– In Illinois, the Evanston–Skokie school district has adopted a curriculum that teaches pre-K through third-grade students to “break the binary” of gender.

So instead of learning factual American history – the good and the bad – students are now at the mercy of far-left zealots, hell-bent on advancing their radical agenda and destroying education as we have known it.

Also, there is no accountability for teachers. In Michigan, for example, 28% of eighth graders are proficient in reading, and just 25% are proficient in math per the 2022 math NAEP. But, at the same time, 99% of the state’s administrators and teachers are rated “highly effective” or “effective.”

Unless the education establishment does a 180 in a hurry, parents, who are in charge of feeding, clothing, and housing their children, must also start to educate them. The 200-year experiment of leaving that oh-so-important job to the government (and, of late, teachers unions) is decidedly failing.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. [email protected]


The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.

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