National Test Shows Civics Deficit
For Immediate Release: Wednesday May 16, 2007
For Information Contact: Jeff Schrade (602) 312-3746
A national report released today revealed an alarming lack of knowledge in American students about what it means to be a citizen in our representative democracy. While 4 th grade “basic proficiency” in civics improved slightly (from 69% to 73%), civics proficiency in grades 8 and 12 has not changed significantly since 1998 when the assessment was last administered. In fact, as students grow older and progress through the grades towards adulthood and eligibility to vote, their civic knowledge and dispositions seem to grow weaker.
“We can’t expect young people to become informed and engaged citizens without adequate instruction in the basic principles of citizenship.” said Arizona Senate President Tim Bee. “This report is hard evidence for the need to strengthen civic learning in Arizonaschools.”
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released The Nation’s Report Card on history and civics. The Nation’s Report Card is the only nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States and has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969.
“The fact that only 24% of students tested could achieve a proficient score in civics is cause for considerable alarm,” said President Bee. “Our system of public education was founded to prepare each generation for active citizenship, and it is clear that civic education needs more attention in our schools.”
“In France last week, 84% of eligible voters went to the polls,” noted Syd Golston, a longtime Arizona civic educator and recently-elected Vice President of the National Council for the Social Studies. “The restoration of the civic mission of schools will help move the United States toward a comparable level of civic participation.”
“Although these national civics results are not specific to Arizona, they certainly reflect a need to strengthen instruction and focus on civic learning in our state,” said Jeff Schrade, Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education Program Director and coordinator of the Arizona Civics Coalition, a statewide group of over 30 individuals and organizations working to revitalize civic learning in Arizona. “Many in Arizona are working together toward this goal.”
“Civic Education is important to Arizona’s future and the future of our nation.” said Arizona Representative Jennifer J. Burns, who sponsored the “Civics Commission” bill (HB2788) last legislative session. “ Arizona has established a Commission on Civic Education and Engagement that will work with teachers, policymakers and educational groups to examine the issue and take steps to strengthen civic education in our state.”
In addition to supporting the work of the Commission on Civic Education and Engagement, the Arizona Civics Coalition will gather data about civic learning in Arizona, provide training and materials to Arizona civics teachers and bring together individuals and groups who support civic education in Arizona.
"It is crucial that we prepare every generation of American youth to be active, engaged citizens,” remarked Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor, of the Arizona Supreme Court. “We must ensure that our schools and communities receive the support and resources they need to provide this essential component of each child’s education.”
About the Arizona Civics Coalition
The Arizona Civics Coalition, a program of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, unites community partners, educators, and youth who will revitalize civic education for young Arizonans. The Coalition feels that c ivic education should help young Arizonans acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.
About The Nation’s Report Card
The Nation’s Report Card is the only nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States and has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969. Through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), The Nation’s Report Card informs the public about what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas and compares achievement data between states and various student demographic groups.
The National Assessment Governing Board is an independent, bipartisan board whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives, and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member governing board in 1988 to set policy for NAEP.