Posted on May 5, 2011

A Third off High School Seniors Lack Basic Grasp off Civics, US Government

Amanda Paulson, Christian Science Monitor, May 4, 2011

America’s students have little knowledge about how the democratic process works–including those on the cusp of voting themselves, according to the most recent results from the Nation’s Report Card.

The civics scores released Wednesday by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) had a few bright spots–particularly for fourth-graders and for Hispanic students. But overall they indicated relatively poor civics knowledge by students at all levels, and particularly among 12th-graders.

Just 24 percent of high school seniors scored at a proficient level or above, a slight drop from the last civics test in 2006, largely driven by declining scores for 12th-grade girls. Just 4 percent of seniors scored at an advanced level, and 36 percent didn’t even reach the most basic level.


Scores for Hispanic students also increased compared with 1998 for all three grades (fourth, eighth, and 12th), and the white-Hispanic achievement gap narrowed. In eighth grade, the percentage of Hispanic students scoring at proficient has climbed over time from 44 percent in 1998 to 50 percent in 2006 and 56 percent in 2010.

But the gap is still wide for most minority groups. While 37 percent of white fourth-graders performed at or above proficient, for instance, just 12 percent of black students and 10 percent of Hispanic students scored at that level. At the lower end of achievement, the differences are just as stark: 13 percent of white fourth-graders scored below basic, compared with 38 percent of black students and 42 percent of Hispanic students.


“Studies have shown that African-American and Hispanic students and those not planning to go to college receive fewer effective civics opportunities,” Quigley says. “This is ironic in the fact of abundant evidence that when these students do receive these opportunities, they perform as well as anybody else.”