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Democrats and Republicans blame each other for drop in U.S. history and civics knowledge among eight graders

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A new report has shown a decline in U.S. history and civics scores among the Nation’s eight graders.

According to the “Nation’s Report Card,” released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the test scores of eighth graders in U.S. history and civics decreased between 2018 and 2022. This is the first decline recorded in civics since the assessment began in 1998, but it continues an ongoing downward trend in U.S. History that began in 2014. Average scores are at the lowest point in two decades for both subjects.  

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a congressionally mandated assessment administered by the NCES. The NAEP is supposed to provide an accurate assessment of what U.S. students can and cannot do academically. In 2022, NCES evaluated around 7,800 eighth-grade students from 410 schools in the subject of civics, as well as approximately 8,000 eighth-grade students from the same number of schools in the subject of U.S. history.  

The report doesn’t explicitly highlight or infer a cause for the drop. However, politicians and officials on both sides were willing to draw their own conclusions.

U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said the report highlights the failed policy of President Biden’s Department of Education.

“Today’s NAEP scores show that students are sorely deficient in understanding the basics of American history and government – an outright failure that should concern every parent across the country. Meanwhile, the Department of Education chooses to ignore this flashing red light and opts to shove wokeness down the throats of school districts and students,” said Foxx in a press release. “Let this serve as a textbook example of how the Biden administration wants to orchestrate a hostile takeover of education in America – it refuses to address the glaring issues and turns to wokeness as a cure-all.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona alluded to Republican attempts to cut education funding and censor curriculum in schools.

“It tells us that now is not the time for politicians to try to extract double-digit cuts to education funding, nor is it the time to limit what students learn in U.S. history and civics classes,” said Cardona in a press release. “We need to provide every student with rich opportunities to learn about America’s history and understand the U.S. Constitution and how our system of government works. Banning history books and censoring educators from teaching these important subjects does our students a disservice and will move America in the wrong direction.”

Experts have pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and learning loss as possible culprits. Additionally, according to data provided by NCES, scores for both mathematics and reading declined over the same period.

Over the past couple of years, several states have passed legislation to overhaul their civics education. This includes Indiana, which will now require middle schoolers to complete one whole semester of civics education.


Contact Indy Kids Winning Reporter Andrew Pillow at andrewp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewPillow.

Andrew’s work is supported through a partnership between Indy Kids Winning and the Indianapolis Recorder. Visit indykidswinning.com to learn more. For more news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here. You can also check out the Indiana Minority Business Magazine by clicking here.

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