Dismal Test Scores

By Terry Funk

Magee, M. (2015) Nation’s Report Card. San Diego Union Tribune, 4/30/15, p. 1

A new movement to promote civic education in schools is underway in response to the low percentage of eighth graders scoring proficient or better in three NAEP categories: U.S. History (18%), Civics (23%) and Geography (27%). Numbers were explained in more detail based on race. San Diego County is one of six in California that are piloting a program called Power of Democracy. Moving forward the San Diego Unified School District will integrate six education practices for civics education beginning in Kindergarten, infuse civics into English lessons and encourage schools to compete for a civic learning award. The article also discussed professional development for teachers who may not be prepared to teach History.

Evaluation: It’s true that History/Social Studies is often competing for a place in the curriculum – with more emphasis on basic literacy and STEM education in the recent past. However, in a rapidly changing world with legal/societal issues all around it is important that students have an understanding of governance and community engagement. The types of questions on this test were multiple choice which may be part of the problem, because they ask for details of general subject knowledge rather than have students provide more thoughtful responses to issues they have studied. Again this effort is a top down response with more testing in the future to evaluate the impact of the pilot. Engaging students in these topics may require more than raising scores on standardized tests.