Melissa Mellor

History in High School Is Long-Forgotten

The 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) U.S. history results were released earlier this week.

The nation's 8th graders posted gains in U.S. history achievement compared with results from four years ago. Advances by black and Hispanic students, as well as by male students in the 8th grade, largely contributed to the increase. But at the 4th and 12th grade levels, there were no statistically significant changes in performance since 2001. Only 12 percent of 12th graders scored at proficient or advanced levels.

The general lack of advancement in U.S. students' history knowledge comes at a time when the Teaching American History (TAH) program—the largest single source of federal funding for history education—was cut by $73 million (or 61 percent) in the FY11 budget. Additionally, the Obama administration's FY12 budget request and ESEA blueprint propose to consolidate the grant programs supporting history, civics, and geography along with other important subjects into a single, competitive grant—the Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-Rounded Education program.

ASCD and more than three dozen partner organizations support the idea of a well-rounded education but are concerned that the administration's consolidation proposal would pit the various subjects against one another for resources and threaten schools' and districts' ability to provide their students with a comprehensive education.

The administration and Congress should retain a minimum level of resources for each of the subject areas based on their most recent individual funding levels. In addition, meaningful public reporting and accountability requirements regarding student achievement in each of these disciplines should be established—by and for schools, districts, and states—to promote a well-rounded education's importance. Until such resources and accountability are focused on subjects other than mathematics and English language arts, disappointing achievement scores in history could be a recurring trend.

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