Nation’s report card: Eighth-grade civics, history test scores declined in 2022

Side view of student working on math test
Photo: Freepik

National test scores in civics and history for eighth-grade students declined last year, with national averages that echo results from initial assessments more than 25 years ago. The scores further depict the scope of national academic achievement losses due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scores released Wednesday by National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called The Nation’s Report Card, showed that the average U.S. history score in 2022 was 5 points lower than in 2018, the last year that students were tested, and the average civics score was 2 points lower. 

The results also showed that average student scores in both subjects were below NAEP proficiency achievement levels. In history, the average score was 258, while the NAEP proficiency level is 294. For civics, the average score was 150, while the proficiency score is 178. 

The lower overall average means that students are not hitting the lowest level for achievement.

“More students are performing below the NAEP Basic achievement level, demonstrating only partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental for advancing their education,” the NAEP tweeted Wednesday

The average history test score was not statistically different from the average score when assessments began in 1994, according to the NAEP Report Card, and, similarly, the average civics score was the same as the first assessment in 1998. 

As previously reported by Chalkboard Review, the NAEP found that fourth and eighth-grade students had lost ground or stagnated in mathematics scores. Only 27% of those students received scores that met or exceeded proficiency standards last year, down from 34% in 2019.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the declines and blasted education spending cut proposals and measures that would make certain topics off-limits.

“The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress further affirms the profound impact the pandemic had on student learning in subjects beyond math and reading,” Cardona said in a statement. “It tells us that now is not the time for politicians to try to extract double-digit cuts to education funding, nor is it the time to limit what students learn in U.S. history and civics classes. 

Christopher R. Riano, president of the Center for Civic Education, told Chalkboard Review that the scores show the nation’s failure to emphasize aspects of education vital to our way of government. 

“The NAEP civics results demonstrate that there is a greater need for civic education than ever before,” Riano said. “The many years of our nation neglecting the importance of civics are clearly shown in these numbers, and we now must prioritize constitutional understanding and responsible civic engagement for our democracy to thrive.”

“Through deep investment and collaboration, we can combat the decline in civic education and engagement, but only when we work together in furtherance of forming a more perfect union,” Riano added. 

Brendan Clarey
Brendan Clarey is K-12 editor at Chalkboard Review. Reach him at

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