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8th graders scored poorly in U.S. history and civics in 2022.

U.S. History and Civics Scores Hit Record Lows Among Eighth Graders

The Department of Education released alarming news this week: eighth graders in the United States had the lowest U.S. history scores on record in 2022, and among the lowest civics scores. The data, which is the first federal history and civics testing data since before the COVID pandemic, shows that the last few years have erased the progress made since the 1990s on eighth-grade students’ knowledge of history and civics.

Only about 13% of eighth graders met proficiency standards for U.S. history last year, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation’s Report Card. Proficient means students could explain major themes, periods, events, people, ideas, and turning points in the nation’s history. Only 1% of students who took the test were rated as advanced in U.S. history.

Only about one-fifth of students were proficient or better in civics.

In addition, last year more students also performed below “basic” levels in both U.S. history and civics. Four in ten eighth graders scored below basic in history, while about 31% scored below basic in civics. Eighth graders got an average history score of 258 out of 500, five points lower than 2018. They scored an average civics score of 150 out of 300, three points lower than 2018.

Students who were already struggling saw their scores sink significantly, while students who were excelling before the pandemic continued to do well for the most part.

The Importance of Informed and Engaged Citizens

History and civics were the two most dismal subjects as far as how many students were proficient, the Education Department data showed. History and civics scores are “woefully low in comparison to other subjects,” Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics told reporters Tuesday.

“These data are a national concern. The health of our democracy depends on informed and engaged citizens,” Carr said.

Learning Loss During the Pandemic

Math and reading scores have also suffered over the pandemic, the Education Department revealed last year. Math scores plummeted among fourth and eighth graders in almost every state, the Education Department reported back in October. Reading scores have also sunk across the country, erasing the last three decades of progress.

Eighth graders scored an average 274 out of 500 in math, eight points lower than 2018. Their average reading score was 260 out of 500, down three points from 2018.

Many students returned to classrooms last year reading at the same level as when the pandemic started, putting them two grade levels behind. A January study suggested that students lost about 35% of a normal school year’s worth of learning, starting when remote learning began.

Parents Take Action

Learning loss caused by many months of remote learning during the pandemic spurred parents across the country to demand schools return to in-person learning, especially after data showed that children were low-risk for serious cases of COVID.

Some parents even ran for school board positions and won, hoping to stop the learning loss in their district.

In Florida, mom and new board member Stephanie Meyer said failing grades and student behavioral problems made her unwilling to send her own children to the same schools she once attended.

In Michigan, Tom Payne, a grandfather and new school board president, dubbed the district’s academic performance before he was elected “mediocre at best.”


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