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The Dangers of Cutting Civics Testing

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Last month, the “nation’s report card” eliminated civics testing for 4th and 12th graders under the auspices of budget cuts, while introducing new testing programs designed to assess students’ Internet literacy. In an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, Gary Schmitt and Cheryl Miller explain why these cuts to civics education are so worrisome:

The emphasis on basic academic skills pushed by the education-reform movement has had the unintended consequence of devaluing other important parts of the curriculum. Thus, while the NAEP reading and math tests are mandated, history and civics are considered optional, to be conducted only “if resources permit.”

In this instance, no news will definitely not be good news. According to the last NAEP civics assessment, released in 2010, less than half of eighth-graders surveyed knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights, and only 1 in 10 had age-appropriate knowledge of the system of checks and balance. Students performed worse on the 2010 US history assessment than they did on any other NAEP test.

This poor performance might have to do with the dwindling amount of time allotted to civics and history. In 2006, 72 percent of 12th-graders said they studied the Constitution; the rate fell to 67 percent in 2010. As the old truism puts it, what gets tested is what gets taught. Now, only eight states test their students on American government or civics.

Read the whole thing.