Reports

The Nation’s Report Card: Civics, Geography and U.S. History

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Author(s): The U.S. Department of Education

Published: April 2020

Report Intro/Brief:
“Eighth-grade students scored lower on average on the 2018 geography and U.S. history assessments compared to 2014; there was no significant change in the average score in civics. Over the long term, students scored higher on average in civics and U.S. history compared to 1998 and 1994, respectively, the first assessment years for these subjects. Compared to 2014, performance in 2018 at selected percentiles varied by subject, with lower scores at the 10th and 25th percentiles in geography and lower scores at all but the 90th percentile in U.S. history. In civics, there was no significant change in the score at any selected percentile in 2018 compared to 2014. Compared to the first assessment years, the 2018 scores were higher for the 10th and 25th percentiles in civics and for all percentiles except the 90th in U.S. history. In geography, however, scores were lower than in the first assessment year for students at the 75th and 90th percentiles

2018 U.S. History Results:

  • Eighth-graders’ average U.S. history score in 2018 (263) was four points lower compared to 2014 (267), but the 2018 score was four points higher than eighth-graders’ average U.S. history score in 1994 (259), the first assessment year for U.S. history.
  • The decline in eighth-graders’ average U.S. history score in 2018 was mirrored by declines for students at almost all performance levels. Scores declined for students at the 10th, 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles between 2014 and 2018. Scores for students at the 90th percentile in 2018 were not significantly different compared to 2014.
  • Fifteen percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in U.S. history in 2018. This was lower than in 2014, when 18 percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in U.S history. In 1994,14 percent of students performed at or above NAEP Proficient, which was not significantly different compared to 2018.
  • From 2014 to 2018, average scores for White, Black, and Hispanic students declined. The score for White students declined from 277 to 272; the score for Black students declined from 251 to 246; and the score for Hispanic students declined from 257 to 253.
  • Scores were lower across all four U.S. history themes: Democracy, Culture, Technology, and World Role. The average score in the Democracy theme declined from 269 in 2014 to 265 in 2018; the average score in Culture declined from 269 in 2014 to 263 in 2018; the average score in Technology declined from 260 in 2014 to 256 in 2018; and the average score in World Role declined from 270 in 2014 to 266 in 2018.
  • This is the first assessment year in which the average U.S. history score declined.

2018 Civics Results:

  • Eighth-graders’ average score for civics in 2018 (153) was not significantly different compared to 2014 (154). Overall, performance was higher than the original assessment year (1998) score of 150.
  • Compared to 2014, there was no change in the average score for students in any racial/ethnic group that NAEP reports on, nor did average scores change for students at any of the selected percentile levels (10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th). In 2018, students at the 10th and 25th percentile made improvements compared to 1998, the first assessment year.
  • Average civics scores for White, Black, and Hispanic students were higher in 2018 compared to 1998.
  • Twenty-four percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in civics in 2018, which was not significantly different compared to either 2014 (23 percent), or 1998 (22 percent).

2018 Geography Results:

  • Eighth-graders’ average geography score in 2018 (258) was three points lower compared to 2014, when the average score was 261; overall performance was not significantly different from performance in the first assessment year (1994), when the average score was 260.
  • Scores for the lower-performing students declined between 2014 and 2018, contributing to the decline in the overall average score in geography. The score for students at the 10th percentile declined from 220 to 215, and the score for students at the 25th percentile declined from 242 to 237. There were no significant changes in the scores for students at the 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles.
  • Average scores for White and Black students decreased since 2014. The score for White students declined from 273 to 270, and the score for Black students declined from 240 to 235. There was no significant change in the average score for Hispanic students between 2014 and 2018.
  • Twenty-five percent of students performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in geography in 2018. There was no significant change compared to 2014. However, the percentage of students performing at or above the NAEP Proficient level in 2018 was lower than in 1994, when 28 percent of students performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level.
  • The average scores were lower since 2014 in two out of three geography content areas: Space and Place; and Environment and Society. The average score in Space and Place declined from 262 in 2014 to 259 in 2018, and the average score in Environment and Society declined from 263 in 2014 to 258 in 2018. There were no significant changes in the third content area, Spatial Dynamics and Connections, between 2014 and 2018.”

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