May 3, 2023 - Politics & Policy

U.S. history scores hit all-time low among 8th graders

Illustration of a marble thumbs down on top of a column pedestal

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

U.S. history scores among the nation's eighth graders plummeted in 2022, new assessment results known as the Nation's Report Card show.

The big picture: The history scores, which are the lowest ever recorded since the assessment began in 1994, plus civics scores seeing their first-ever decline underscore the pandemic's prolonged effects on students.

  • History scores on the NAEP assessment have been trending down since 2014, but the pandemic had a "profound impact" on student learning, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

Driving the news: The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released Wednesday show that about 40% of eighth graders scored below the basic level in U.S. history in 2022, compared to 34% in 2018.

  • Just 13% of students performed at or above the "proficient" level in U.S. history.
  • Eighth graders' average civic scores decreased by 2-points compared to 2018, the NAEP results show. They're comparable to results from 1998, which is the first assessment year for civics under the current framework.
  • The civics assessment tests knowledge of aspects of American democracy and the U.S. political system and other topics related to citizenship, per NAEP.

Zoom out: The new results follow NAEP test scores released last fall revealing the largest math declines ever recorded for fourth- and eighth-graders.

  • Math scores declined for those grades in nearly every state and district between 2019 and 2022. Reading scores also fell in most states during those years, according to the results.

What they're saying: "Far too many of our students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, and the historical significance of events," Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the Education Department, said in a press release.

  • "These results are a national concern," she added.

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