Is civics education sinking in?

Hands-on settings can enhance civic education for American youth.

4-H members at 4-H Capitol Experience

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only assessment that measures what U.S. students know and can do in various subjects across the nation, states, and in some urban districts. Also known as The Nation’s Report Card, NAEP has provided important information about how students are performing academically since 1969. NAEP is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

Focusing solely on the civics assessment in 2014, approximately 9,100 eighth-graders from about 410 schools participated. Based on recommendations from policymakers, educators, and members of the general public, the Governing Board sets specific achievement levels for each subject area and grade. Achievement levels are performance standards showing what students should know and be able to do. Results are reported as percentages of students performing at or above the Basic and Proficient levels and at the Advanced level. View examples of questions that reflect the skills and knowledge demonstrated by eighth-graders performing at each of the three achievement levels. 

The national results show the performance of students attending both public and nonpublic schools. Results from 2014 were compared to results from the previous civics assessments administered in 1998, 2006, and 2010. Data from the 2014 Civics Report Card revealed that compared to 1998, the first year of the NAEP civics assessment, the average score for eighth-graders has increased by 4 points. There was no significant change in the average score compared to 2010. When reviewing the Nation’s Report Card overall, the lowest scores of all subjects is U.S. History, followed by Geography, and then civics.

Michigan 4-H can help strengthen civics and other subjects learning through experiential learning.  Youth can participate in hands-on programs like 4-H Capitol Experience or other active civics programs in communities.

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