<< The Body Politic

States reduce focus on social studies, civics

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Over at the Heartlander, Rachel Sheffield, an education research assistant at the Heritage Foundation, interviews the Program on American Citizenship’s Cheryl Miller about the state of civic education in American schools and the promise of charter schools when it comes to civics. Miller notes that “states say civic education is important, but very few test on it. […] That communicates something to teachers, administrators, parents, and students about the importance of this subject.”

Sheffield continues:

Federal regulations such as No Child Left Behind have caused states to shift attention to subjects the law requires states to test: reading and math, the report says. In 2001, for example, 34 states administered regular social studies tests, but that number has dropped to 21.

“With all the attention that’s on reading and math because of high-stakes testing, citizenship education has kind of gotten left behind,” Miller said.

Forty-one states require at least three years of high school social studies classes. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, reveals only 12 percent of high school seniors score proficient in U.S. history. In civics, the percentage is 24 percent.

“If states don’t spend a lot of time on it and don’t make it a priority, the results aren’t going to be that great,” Miller said.

Head over to the Heartlander to read Sheffield’s whole article and to listen to the full interview.