U.S. History Scores for 8th Graders Plummet Amid Pandemic and Political Divisions

In a recent article from The New York Times, the newest national test scores revealed a substantial decrease in students’ understanding of U.S. history. TExperts believe the ongoing pandemic has negatively affected student performance across nearly all academic fields. The downward trend in U.S. history scores, which began nearly a decade ago, has accelerated and coincides with the subject becoming increasingly politically divisive.

U.S. History Scores for 8th Graders Plummet Amid Pandemic and Political Divisions

Key Takeaways:

  • National test scores have shown a significant drop in students’ knowledge of U.S. history and a modest decline in civics, which is attributed to the pandemic’s impact on student performance and the politically divisive nature of the subject.
  • Approximately 40% of eighth graders scored “below basic” in U.S. history last year, while only 13% were considered proficient, reflecting a concerning downward trend in performance.
  • Experts attribute the decline in performance to factors such as reduced reading comprehension and a continuing de-emphasis on social studies instruction, with the pandemic exacerbating the situation by causing schools to prioritize reading and math over history and civics.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam conducted by the Department of Education, found that roughly 40% of eighth-grade students scored “below basic” in U.S. history., compared to 34% in 2018 and 29% in 2014. Only 13% of eighth graders were considered proficient, a drop from 18% nearly a decade ago. The decline in civics performance was also noteworthy, marking the first decrease since the test’s inception in the late 1990s.

Education Secretary Miguel A. Cardona criticized politicians for attempting to limit instruction in history, particularly on race-related topics. He emphasized that censoring teachers and banning history books would do a disservice to students and move American education and the whole country in the wrong direction. Experts have attributed the decline in performance to several factors, including reduced reading comprehension and a continuing de-emphasis on social studies instruction. The pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, leading schools to prioritize reading and math while neglecting subjects like history and civics.

Current State of Education in The US

The current state of the U.S. education system reflects an ongoing shift in priorities, with schools across the country grappling to find the right balance between core subjects and the need for well-rounded, informed citizens. As educational institutions navigate these changes, it’s crucial to recognize the impact of their decisions on the future of American society. 

To know what that future might bring, we need to understand the current state of the US education system in schools. The next 5 facts will prove to be crucial for grasping the idea: 

  1. The introduction of No Child Left Behind and its subsequent revisions has resulted in a heightened focus on reading, math, and science in schools, frequently overshadowing the importance of social studies instruction.
  2. Instructional time for social studies has significantly decreased, with some students now receiving as little as 30 minutes of social studies instruction twice a week, well below the recommended 45 minutes daily for elementary school students.
  3. The shift in focus from memorization to critical thinking skills, while beneficial, has contributed to a lack of background knowledge in history and civics among students.
  4. The politically divisive nature of U.S. history, particularly around topics of race, has led to efforts to limit or censor instruction in some states, further exacerbating the decline in student performance in this subject.
  5. As the U.S. experiences a rise in youth political engagement and voter turnout, the need for robust history and civics education becomes increasingly important to ensure the next generation is well-informed and capable of engaging in meaningful political discourse.

Related stories:

Gen Z Demands Change in Education: How Can Institutions Meet Their Needs?

Exam Room Dilemma: Exploring Teachers’ Opinions on Assistance During Tests and Quizzes

Rapid Chromebook Turnover in Schools Sparks Environmental and Educational Alarm

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