Boots & Sabers

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1901, 07 May 23

Test Scores for U.S. History and Civics Plummet

This is a disaster.

A growing number of students are falling below even the basic standards set out on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a rigorous national exam administered by the Department of Education. About 40% of eighth graders scored “below basic” in U.S. history last year, compared with 34% in 2018 and 29% in 2014.


Just 13% of eighth graders were considered proficient — demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter — down from 18% nearly a decade ago.




The dip in civics performance was smaller but notable: It was the first decline since the test began being administered in the late 1990s. About 22% of students were proficient, down from 24% in 2018.




Instructional time for social studies declined after the implementation of No Child Left Behind, a pattern that was amplified during the pandemic, when schools had to triage academic losses, resulting in more of a focus on reading and math.


“It doesn’t bode well for the future of this country and for the future of democracy if we don’t start doing more instruction in social studies,” said Kristin Dutcher Mann, a history professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, who helps train middle and high school social studies teachers. At one point, she said, older elementary school students in her community received an hour of social studies each day. Now, she said, “they will be lucky if they get 30 minutes for social studies twice a week.”


Instruction has changed, too.


Students spend far less time memorizing state capitals or the preamble to the Constitution — information they could easily Google — and instead focus more on key skills, like distinguishing between primary and secondary source documents. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, Dr. Dutcher Mann said. Students need to be taught to think critically.


But she said that emphasis can contribute to a troubling lack of background knowledge. Even in her college classes, she said, she has noticed a “rapid and very significant decline” in what students know about history and geography — like the fact that Africa is a continent, not a country.

I do think that the emphasis on “how to think” is useless without a base of knowledge. You can’t evaluate information if you lack the historical and factual context of the information. It’s not that we want to move away from teaching critical thinking. It’s that we have to teach a lot of rote facts first so that we CAN teach critical thinking.


1901, 07 May 2023

1 Comment

  1. Tuerqas

    And there you have why critical thinking is no longer taught in a nutshell. Lefties know they are not teaching enough knowledge or skills to support critical thinking in the first place.
    The only important fact that Dr Mann does not touch upon is that the public school liberal machine is dumbing down the populace by design.

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