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8th-Graders Stumped by U.S. History and Geography Tests, Study Finds

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America’s eighth-graders are failing tests in U.S. history, a national study says.

Only 18% of eighth-graders rated proficient or above in U.S. history, just 27% rated proficient or above in geography and 23% in civics, according to the Nation’s Report Card 2014, a federal survey of more than 29,000 eighth-graders published Wednesday.

“The lack of knowledge on the part of America’s students is unacceptable, and the lack of growth must be addressed. As a country, we must do better,” said Terry Mazany, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the survey.

Here’s a breakdown of how eighth-graders performed across the three subjects:

Here are a couple of sample questions from the U.S. history section, the area of the test where eighth-graders are least proficient.

Eighth-graders who scored in the basic category were likely to answer the following sample question correctly:

For centuries, a young man who wanted to learn a craft was apprenticed to a master craftsman who taught him the necessary skills. Why did the apprenticeship system begin to decline in the first half of the 1800’s?

  • A. The apprenticeship system was considered unsuitable for the increased number of women working outside the home.
  • B. The growth of the factory system led to a decreased need for skilled labor.
  • C. Many young men chose to become farmers instead of craftsmen.
  • D. Craftsmen began to use unskilled immigrant labor in their shops.

(Answer and explanation here.)

Here’s one that’s a little harder. Eighth-graders who scored in the advanced category were likely to answer the following sample question correctly:

The Supreme Court’s 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison established the Court’s power to:

  • A. impeach a President
  • B. decide whether a federal law is constitutional
  • C. resolve conflicts between states
  • D. resolve conflicts between the President and Congress

(Answer and explanation here.)

See the full report—including other sample questions—here.

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