Research and Data Specialist
Scores for eighth graders fell in both U.S. history and civics on the “Nation’s Report Card,” or NAEP, compared to four years ago. On average, only 13% and 20% of eighth graders were proficient in history and civics, respectively.
More alarmingly, performance levels in both subjects regressed to levels last seen in the 1990s when the tests were first administered. History scores have been falling for almost a decade, but the five-point drop since 2018 is deeply troubling. The two-point drop in civics scores is the first score decline in the test’s 25-year history.
Unfortunately these overall trends mask a serious, and growing, achievement gap. Since 2018, scores for higher-achieving test takers barely changed; the overall drop is driven by significant declines among lower-performing students. For example, in history, scores for the lowest-performing students—those in the 10th percentile—fell by seven points, the biggest drop of any group.
While declines in history and civics scores may be unsurprising, given the lingering effects of lost instructional time during the pandemic, many state policymakers are making it harder to reverse these trends. Banning books and censoring conversations about race, gender, and class will only make it more difficult for students to learn about important topics in history and civics. Instead, these results underscore the urgent need to improve history and civics instruction so young people have an honest accounting of the past and are prepared to participate in democracy in the future.
Ziyu Zhou is a Research and Data Specialist at All4Ed.