Secretary of State
Study Shows Students Flunk Civics Test, Kentucky Addressing the Problem
(Frankfort, KY) With Kentucky election officials predicting frustratingly low turnout in the May 22, 2007 primary election, a report released today revealed one of the reasons why civic participation is declining - American students are not being taught the basics of democracy and civics.
“This report should cause alarm for Kentucky residents,” said Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the state’s chief election official. “The results of this report document the necessity to strengthen civic education in Kentucky schools and for the need to seek a return to the civic mission of our schools.”
The National Assessment Governing Board released the findings of the 2006 ‘Nation’s Report Card on Civic Education’ during a press conference at the Old State House in Boston, Massachusetts today. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) ‘Nation’s Report Card on Civics’ is the most authoritative measure available on how well schools are preparing students for active citizenship.
The Report Card noted little change since the last report in 1998. Two grade levels saw one percent increases in proficiency with only 24% of 4th graders reaching proficiency in 2006 versus 23% in 1998 and 27% of 12th graders reaching proficiency as compared to 26% in 1998. Twenty-two percent of 8th graders reached proficiency, the same as 1998.
Grayson, who serves as chairman of the Kentucky Workgroup on Civic Literacy, commented that the fact that only 25% of students tested could achieve a ‘proficient’ score in civics should signal a significant problem.
Under Grayson’s leadership, the Kentucky Workgroup for Civic Literacy is leading the nation in the effort to increase civic education and engagement through the Civic Literacy Initiative of Kentucky (CLIK), a multi-year effort for enhancing long-term civic engagement and civic literacy within the Commonwealth.
Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, Senator Jack Westwood (R-Crescent Springs), Representative Tanya Pullin (D-South Shore), the Kentucky Department of Education, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the University of Louisville, and Northern Kentucky University have all been strong partners of the workgroup. Summits and regional meetings hosted across the Commonwealth by the Workgroup determined that Kentucky needed to address a burgeoning civics crisis, and thus was created the CLIK.
“While the NAEP Civics results are not specific to Kentucky, they do reflect what we see as a decrease in time and resources allocated to civic learning,” said Grayson. “Our system of public education was founded with the twin goals of preparing each generation for the workplace and active citizenship. Today’s ‘Report Card on Civics’ demonstrates we have lost sight of educating the citizen in favor of concentrating on preparing the worker.”
To address the issue in Kentucky, the CLIK released last fall, Rediscovering Democracy: An Agenda for Action, which calls upon Kentucky leaders to take four principle steps to increase the civic literacy and engagement of the Commonwealth’s citizens. These principle recommendations, together with over sixty additional recommendations, provide the blueprint for such a result.
The report calls for:
1). The establishment of the Kentucky Center for Civic Excellence in partnership with state universities or colleges.
2). The implementation of a pilot study of a high school government and civics course that integrates both civic literacy and civic engagement at the local, state, and federal level.
3). The creation of an annual teacher academy as described in KRS 156.095 in the area of government and civics.
4). The strengthening by five percent of the social studies CATS Blueprint in terms of the degree to which government and civics is assessed.
A number of the four principle recommendations, along with the sixty additional recommendations, have seen marked successes in the last nine months, including the development of an innovative civics course that will be piloted in some high schools this fall.
The Nation’s Report Card is the only nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States and has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969. The Report released today highlights the performance of not only Kentucky students, but American Fourth, Eighth, and Twelfth graders in history and civic education.
“We have seen the curriculum narrow and testing emphasize a few subjects over all others for far too long,” explained Ted McConnell, Director, Campaign to Promote Civic Education based out of the Center for Civic Education in Washington, D.C. “That’s why students across the nation fared so poorly on the NAEP Civics Report Card and why Secretary Grayson and others have launched an effort in Kentucky to strengthen civic education polices and practice.”
“Nothing is more important then preparing each generation of American youth for active, engaged citizenship,” Grayson commented. “The results of the 2006 Civics Report card released today show we must ensure our schools are equipped to do a better job in providing this essential component of each child’s education. Kentucky has a blueprint to address this problem, and hopefully, other policy makers will champion this effort so that we see a more engaged citizenry in Kentucky.”
“Kentucky is the national leader in the movement to restore the civic mission of schools. All states are looking to Kentucky as a role model on how to work collaboratively to strengthen civic learning policies and practice. This is due to the hard work of the Kentucky Workgroup on Civic Literacy and Engagement,” stated McConnell. “The national civic literacy and engagement community salutes Secretary Grayson and the other members of the Workgroup for their leadership and vision."
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About the 2006 Nation’s Report Card on Civic Education:
The Nation’s Report Card is the only nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States and has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969. Through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), The Nation’s Report Card informs the public about what America's students know and can do in various subject areas, and compares achievement data between states and various student demographic groups.
The National Assessment Governing Board is an independent, bipartisan board whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives, and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988 to set policy for NAEP.
The 2006 Nation’s Report Card on Civic Education may be obtained by visiting: http://nationsreportcard.gov.