OK Friends, another day, another disastrous national assessment of what students know about US History. Here is the summary,
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/education/15history.html?ref=education and here is the link to the page where you can explore the results more carefully, http://nationsreportcard.gov/ushistory_2010/ As you can see from the article, the NAEP folks can point to some gains — an inch up in general “proficiency” and within that some improvement for students of color. You know, that is fine and worth not only noticing but investigating — why is it that history education has gotten just a bit better for students of color? That is a tiny sign of hope. But if you move past the headlines and look more carefully through the data your heart breaks.
The killer numbers come in the very same place as we found them in the NAEP Civics and Social Studies results — what percentage of our students, nationwide, score “advanced” — that is to say, 4th graders who can explain how factories changed work (even though I am certain every 4th grade state history covers this, especially in the north and east); 8th graders who can explain two differences between plantations and small farms in the South (even though have studied race, slavery, causes of the Civil War); 12 graders who who can name and define the purpose of the 1763 Proclamation Line (even though they have had US colonial history at least three times by then, not to speak of discussion of Native Americans and how they lost their land back to elementary school) — drum roll — 2%; 1%; 1%. This total failure precisely matches the outcomes we saw in civics and social studies.
In a nation where Race to the Top is the educational credo, where AP and IB classes proliferate, where we have magnet schools and charter schools popping up like day lillies, where supposedly we seek and reward excellence, in this land where, as the Times reported recently, some NYC parents are paying over $30,000 a year to tutors on top of the $30,000+ they pay for private schools, our best students know nothing. We are fooling ourselves, blinding ourselves, by looking at incremental gains in “proficiency.” Sure it is nice if the gread middle budges a bit. But think of what we have lost in silencing, boring, turning off our best students. I simply cannot believe that the % of students in this great land who can learn to think with history, social studies, and civics is in the low single digits. That cannot be. It is such a terrible failure — of our schools, our libraries, are books, our website. Common people — sa the 60s song went — smile on your brother — and convince him to care about history.
What do you all think? What is to be done?