Alexander on 2011 NAEP Scores for History and Civics: “U.S. History Remains Our Students’ Worst Subject…We Must Do Better”

Says, “We need to return U.S. history to its rightful place in the classroom so that our children grow up learning what it means to be an American”

Posted on June 14, 2011

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) released the following statement about today’s report on American students’ achievement in history on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released by the National Assessment Governing Board:

“For middle school and high school students, U.S. history remains our students’ worst subject and we must do better,” Alexander said. “We are making some minor gains, but our students are still performing poorly in history. We need to return U.S. history to its rightful place in the classroom so that our children grow up learning what it means to be an American.”

The NAEP U.S. history assessment for 2010  measures “students' knowledge of American history in the context of democracy, culture, technological and economic changes, and America's changing world role.” The results show students’ understanding of the themes, periods, and ways of knowing and thinking about U.S. history, according to the National Assessment Governing Board. The 2010 results are compared to three previous assessment years -- 1994, 2001, and 2006.

The 2010 results show that more than half of 12th graders tested are performing below the Basic level. For example, 88 percent of 12th graders don’t understand the reasons the United States fought in World War I.

In 1986, during Alexander’s last year as governor of Tennessee, he was asked by then U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett to lead a study group named the Alexander-James Study Group on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The group recommended the creation of what came to be called the National Assessment Governing Board to oversee the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the Nation’s Report Card.

Every year, Alexander brings onto the Senate floor 50 teachers of U.S. history, as part of the Presidential Academy for outstanding history teachers across the nation. Sen. Alexander proposed the creation of Presidential and Congressional Academies for outstanding teachers and students as part of his maiden speech on March 4, 2003 and was the author of the American History and Civics Education Act of 2004 which authorized the creation of the Academies. 

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