Scores in U.S. history and civics for eighth graders are down across the U.S., according to recent results from the Nation's Report Card. This year's history scores are the lowest recorded since the assessment began in 1994, and the new data mark the first-ever drop in civics.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement that the results, from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, further underscore the "profound impact the pandemic had on student learning in subjects beyond math and reading."
"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," Cardona added.
The results follow recent national declines in reading and math among fourth and eighth graders.
NAEP assesses history and civics proficiency for eighth graders in a nationally representative sampling given every four years. The results released May 3 are from exams taken in the spring of 2022.
The scores in U.S. history declined five points, from 263 in 2018 to 258 in 2022, continuing a downward trend that began in 2014. Only 14% of students reached at or above "proficient" in history. In civics, scores dipped two points, the first decline since the test began in 1998. About 22% of students met the "proficient" benchmark in civics.
U.S. history scores declined for Black, Hispanic, and white students, as well as students of two or more races. Score declines in civics followed similar patterns by racial group, but the results were not statistically significant.
Some students’ scores didn’t fall, though. In civics, the scores of higher-achieving students—those who scored at the 75th or 90th percentiles—held steady, while lower-performing students’ scores declined. In history, only students at the 90th percentile didn’t perform worse. All other students’ scores declined.
The distribution of scores changed, too, with more students in both subjects scoring “below basic”— the lowest level on the NAEP.
Representatives from civics advocacy groups and social studies professional organizations told Education Week the pandemic and mounting legal restrictions on what teachers can discuss in the classroom have challenged educators over the past few years. But they also criticized an education landscape that they say has long prioritized reading and math in early grades, to the detriment of social studies. Click here to read more.