Results from a recent national exam show that roughly one-quarter of high school seniors are “proficient” in civics knowledge and skills. Exams were given to students completing 4th, 8th and 12th grades. The national civics exam was first given in 1998 and was administered again in 2006. In 2010, the 4th grade scores have gone up slightly (now at 27%), the 8th grade scores have remained constant (at 22%), and the 12th grade scores have dipped slightly (now at 24%) since the exam was last given in 2006. Scores for Hispanic students rose in the last four years. You can read about the details of this “civics report card” in this Education Week article.
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner has expressed concern over the lack of civics knowledge displayed by students in our country – blaming the narrowing of the curriculum that took place when No Child Left Behind (which emphasizes reading and math) was implemented. “Barely one-third of Americans can even name the three branches of government, much less say what they do,” the AP quotes O’Connor as saying at a recent conference. “Less than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how civic participation benefits our government. Less than that can say what the Declaration of Independence is, and it’s right there in the title. I’m worried.”
In addition to making room for civics instruction in our schools’ curricula, O’Conner promotes the iCivics website designed to teach civics to middle school students through the use of games.