Press Release

The results from the 2006 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in U.S. History and Civics are certainly mixed. While we’re seeing that the reform efforts targeted toward the early grades are paying off, these reports are yet another indication that our nation’s secondary schools are producing students who are neither college- nor career-ready.

The news for fourth-graders in both subjects is positive: across the boards, scores are on the rise, with the lowest performing students registering the biggest gains. These results indicate that elementary school growth in reading and mathematics has been contributing to, rather than detracting from, a student’s opportunity for broad enrichment and academic success.

“It’s a myth that concentrating extra efforts in reading and math compromises achievement in other areas,” said Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust. “Like the gains on the 2005 NAEP science test, today’s results are a reminder that this argument simply doesn’t hold water.”

Improvement in the fourth grade was accompanied by some narrowing of the African American-White and Latino-White achievement gaps, as well as the gaps between poor students and their more affluent counterparts. Most of that movement is found at the lower end of the scale, where more students are rising from below Basic and into the Basic achievement level.

The landscape isn’’t nearly as promising for our nation’’s middle and high schools. Despite overall achievement gains in U.S. History for eighth- and 12th-graders, 81 percent of African American and 75 percent of Latino public school 12th-graders are still achieving below Basic levels. The dismal results for high schoolers are similar to what has been found in other NAEP subjects – —achievement is strongest among our youngest students and trails off as they move through our education system.

But we can’’t expect to begin seeing gains among teens until what’s being taught in our nation’s secondary schools gives students the tools necessary for success after high school. According to the 2005 NAEP high school transcript study released earlier this year, it appears as though high school students are doing the right things – taking classes with more advanced course titles, earning more credits, and getting higher grades. But that same report showed that these purportedly higher level efforts have not resulted in increased NAEP achievement in math and science. And just yesterday, similar findings released by ACT showed that only one-quarter of high school students on a college-preparatory track are actually ready for post-secondary education.

“”Students are getting serious about doing what’s best for their futures. But they’re being short-changed by high schools that aren’’t providing challenging work,”” said Haycock. “”It’’s time for states and school districts to get as serious as the students are by raising their standards to college- and career-ready levels and demanding high-quality instruction and rigorous curriculum.””