FILED IN: Education

U.S. students still lacking in American history knowledge

Many U.S. students may have no idea what this document is. Photo: Thorne Enterprises

Apparently U.S. students are unfamiliar with the famous paraphrased aphorism, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That’s because a new report shows that students anywhere from high school to fourth grade are solely lacking in their knowledge of American history.

Results from the 2010 gold standard of testing, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 13 percent of the nation’s high school seniors showed proficiency in their knowledge of American history, and only 18 percent of eighth grades and 22 percent of fourth graders scoring as well.

Diane Ravitch, the former U.S. assistant education secretary, points the finger at the focus on reading and math testing outlined in the federal No Child Left Behind law and was quoted as saying, “We need to make sure other subjects like history, science and the arts are not forgotten in our pursuit of the basic skills.” Ravitch was once a champion of NCLB during the Bush administration before later coming out criticizing the legislation.

Out of seven subjects contained in the NAEP test, students scored lowest on U.S. history.

Judy Brodigan, former head of elementary social studies curriculum in Lewisville, Texas, told AP that social studies and history subjects are not “much of a priority,” and that “students are coming to middle school lacking crucial skills.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, however — the lowest-performing fourth graders have made large gains since 1994, with a 22 percentage point increase.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told reporters in a conference call that he is developing a “plan B” to avoid the “slow-motion train wreck” of NCLB, saying he prefers more emphasis on “accountability-focused reforms.”

On the NAEP scores, Duncan stated, “A well-rounded curriculum is key to preparing students for success in school and life. That’s why we’re putting a greater emphasis on courses like history, art, drama and music in our efforts to fix No Child Left Behind.”