The Heartland Institute: History and Civics Tests Postponed Indefinitely

The National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in civics, U.S. history, and geography have been indefinitely postponed for fourth and twelfth graders. The Obama administration says this is due to a $6.8 million sequestration budget cut. The three exams will be replaced by a single, new test: Technology and Engineering Literacy.

“Without these tests, advocates for a richer civic education will not have any kind of test to use as leverage to get more civic education in the classrooms,” said John Hale, associate director at the Center for Civic Education.

NAEP is a set of national tests of fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders that track achievement on various subjects over time. Researchers collect data for state to state comparisons in mathematics, reading, science, and writing. The other subjects only provide national statistics and are administered to fewer students. The tests provide basic information about students but do not automatically trigger consequences for teachers, students, and schools.

Students have historically performed extremely poorly on these three tests. In 2010, the last administration of the history test, students performed worse on it than on any other NAEP test. That year, less than half of eighth-graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights, and only 1 in 10 could pick a definition of the system of checks and balance on the civics exam.

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