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May 8, 2023

Test Scores for History and Civics Drop

Ask Students: When did states start to de-prioritize social studies and history? How can “struggling with the hard parts of our history” help us now?


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Eighth-grade U.S. history and civics test scores dropped last year to their lowest levels ever recorded by the Department of Education. These are just the latest declines among subjects tested since the pandemic. John Yang has a look at what’s behind the numbers.

For a transcript of this story, click here.

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Discussion Questions

  • What testing scores dropped to their lowest levels ever reported by the Department of Education?
  • Who is interviewed at the start of this story, and why is he not surprised by the results of recent testing?
  • When did states start to de-prioritize social studies and history, according to Patrick Kelly?
  • Why should students learn civics, history and social studies according to Kelly?
  • How can “struggling with the hard parts of our history” help us now, according to Kelly?

Focus Questions

Why do you think test scores are down for civics and history? What do you think is a good way to improve them?

Media Literacy: Some have pointed to other causes for lower test scores, such as disrupted learning during COVID. Why do you think these possible causes weren’t explored in this story? What was the focus of the story?

Extension Activity

Watch the following segment from earlier this year on educators’ efforts to counter learning loss from the COVID pandemic. After watching, discuss — how much do you think lower test scores are a reflection of this learning loss? How much is a reflection of deprioritizing civics and history? What else might have helped contribute to lower scores?

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Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Classroom.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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