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Civics Achievement

The 1998 National assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics assessment provides a measure of student's knowledge and understanding of civics.

The average performance of students in each grade assessed is expressed in terms of the average score on the NAEP civics scale. The civics scale ranges from 0 to 300, and the national average at each grade is 150. The NAEP civics scale can be used to compare the performance of subgroups of students within a grade, but does not allow for comparisons of performance across grades because each grade was scaled separately.

The 1998 average civics scale scores for males and females, along with the percentage of males and females in the sample, are presented in the table below. At grades 8 and 12, female students had higher average scale scores than their male peers. At grade 4, the difference between males and females was not statistically significant. The results of the 1998 NAEP civics assessment differ from the results of previous NAEP surveys in the social studies areas, in which male students outperformed female students (particularly at the twelfth grade).*

Table 1.—Average civics scale scores by gender: 1998

  Percentage of students Average scale scores
Grade 4
Male 52 149
Female 48 151
Grade 8
Male 51 148
Female 49 152
Grade 12
Male 48 148
Female 52 152

NOTE: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.
SOURCE: Table 2.1 in National Center for Education Statistics. (1999). NAEP 1998 Civics: Report Card for the Nation (NCES 2000-457). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

* On the 1988 NAEP civics assessment, for example, male students outperformed female students at the twelfth grade. Before interpreting this as a change in gender patterns of performance, however, readers should note that the 1998 assessment was different from its 1988 predecessor. The 1998 assessment used both multiple-choice and open-ended questions throughout, while the 1988 assessment contained only one open-ended exercise. The results in civics also differ from those in the 1994 NAEP Geography assessment (on which males outperformed females at all three grades), and the 1994 NAEP U.S. History assessment (on which males outperformed females at grade 12).


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