Authors: Anthony Lutkus and Andrew R. Weiss
The 2006 NAEP civics assessment evaluated students’ understanding of the democratic institutions and ideals necessary to become informed citizens in shaping America’s future. Students demonstrated this knowledge in areas deemed important for citizenship in our constitutional democracy. A nationally representative sample of more than 25,000 students at grades 4, 8, and 12 was assessed in 2006. The results are compared with those of the 1998 civics assessment.
About two out of three American students at grades 4, 8, and 12 have at least a basic knowledge of civics according to the 2006 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Average scores improved from 1998 to 2006 only at grade 4. Most of this improvement was seen among lower-performing students.
Three of four students at grade 4, or 73 percent, scored at or above Basic, meaning they demonstrated at least a partial mastery of civics knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their grade. About one in four students, or 24 percent, scored at or above the Proficient level, meaning they demonstrated at least competency over challenging subject matter. Many fourth-grade student groups had higher scores in 2006.
What students know about civics
|75% knew that only citizens can vote in the U.S.|
|41% identified the level of government that signs peace treaties|
|14% recognized that defendants have a right to a lawyer|
|80% identified a notice for jury duty|
|63% determined an instance of abuse of power|
|28% explained the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence|
|72% analyzed a historical text on the importance of education|
|50% identified the outcome when state and national laws conflict|
|43% described the meaning of federalism in the U.S.|
Overall, eighth-graders’ knowledge of civics has not changed since the 1998 assessment. Of eighth-graders, 22 percent scored at or above the Proficient level, and 70 percent scored at or above Basic. White and Hispanic students showed score gains.
Twelfth-graders, tomorrow’s voters, performed at about the same level in 2006 as they did in 1998. No student group showed a statistically significant increase. Twenty-seven percent of twelfth-graders scored at or above the Proficient level, and 66 percent scored at or above Basic.
* Significantly different from 2006.
NCES 2007-476 Ordering information
Lutkus, A., and Weiss, A. (2007).The Nation’s Report Card: Civics 2006 (NCES 2007–476). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
For more information, see the results of the 2006 Civics assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.