Federal Federal File

History Test

By Vaishali Honawar — July 12, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

“U.S. History: Our Worst Subject?” That was the catchy title of a hearing on Capitol Hill late last month. By the end of it, a panel of experts and several senators had pretty much agreed that the answer was yes.

BRIC ARCHIVE

Among the panelists was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, who warned of a dire future for the country when children are ignorant of such basics as the Declaration of Independence and the meaning of the Fourth of July.

“We are raising children who don’t know who George Washington was,” said Mr. McCullough, whose best-selling books include 1776, John Adams, and Truman.

The June 30 hearing held by Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the subcommittee on education and early childhood development, was on a bill that would create a pilot program in 10 states to test 8th and 12th graders in U.S. history and civics on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Students are periodically tested in those subjects on NAEP now, but only as part of a limited, nationwide sample of students in grades 4, 8, and 12.

The goal, according to Sen. Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who are the bill’s sponsors, is to gain a clearer picture of which states do a good job of teaching history and which states don’t. NAEP data on U.S. history are not currently reported by state.

NAEP scores in 2001 showed that nearly half of 4th graders tested could not identify a passage from the Declaration of Independence, and that nearly half of 8th graders did not know the significance of the summer of 1776.

“Asking our children to be productive citizens without teaching them history is like asking someone to be quarterback without teaching him to throw,” Sen. Alexander said.

Jeffrey Passe, the president of the National Council for the Social Studies, based in Silver Spring, Md., said comparing how students are learning history in different states is difficult.

“Each state does its own kind of testing—it is like comparing apples and oranges,” he said in an interview. The quality of NAEP questions makes the assessment more suitable than state tests for such a project, he added. And history has lost ground in recent years to reading and mathematics, for which students must be tested under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, he said.

“As much as we endorse the teaching of literacy and math, we can’t neglect citizenship development, because we have a democracy built upon it,” he said.

Related Tags:

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
How Whole-Child Student Data Can Strengthen Family Connections
Learn how district leaders can use these actionable strategies to increase family engagement in their student’s education and boost their academic achievement.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Fed's Education Research Board Is Back. Here's Why That Matters
Defunct for years, the National Board for Education Sciences has new members and new priorities.
2 min read
Image of a conference table.
vasabii/iStock/Getty
Federal Opinion NAEP Needs to Be Kept at Arm’s Length From Politics
It’s in all our interests to ensure NAEP releases are buffered from political considerations and walled off from political appointees.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Feds Emphasize Legal Protections for Pregnant or Recently Pregnant Students, Employees
The U.S. Department of Education has released a new resource summary related to pregnancy discrimination in schools.
2 min read
Young girl checking her pregnancy test, sitting on beige couch at home.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal Conservatives Hammer on Hot-Button K-12 Education Issues at Federalist Society Event
The influential legal group discussed critical race theory, gender identity, and Title IX.
6 min read
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at the Phoenix International Academy in Phoenix on Oct. 15, 2020.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was among a phalanx of conservatives addressing K-12 issues at a conference of the Federalist Society.
Matt York/AP