Phi Beta Cons

NAEP ‘Indefinitely Postpones’ Tests of U.S. History and Civics

Haley Strauss of the Heartland Institute picks up on an important, overlooked development:

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.

Hale’s comment is right on for anyone who cares about civic and historical literacy. Strauss later points out that students often do very poorly on these tests — although those results are dispiriting, they can sometimes be used to goad administrators into reform.

The removal of the requirement is a one-two punch: It robs historical-literacy advocates of valuable evidence for our case at the same time that it signals to teachers and administrators that history and civics are just not taken seriously. Almost certainly, this will cause civic and historical education to decay even further than it has.

And that will hurt colleges, too. Already, college graduates demonstrate remarkable ignorance of U.S. history and government. Without up-to-date information on high school graduates’ civic illiteracy, it will be increasingly hard to convince the more than 80 percent of colleges and universities that do not require U.S. history or government to change their ways.

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