ERIC Identifier: ED438244
Publication Date: 2000-03-00
Author: Patrick, John J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress in Civics. ERIC
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an ongoing,
congressionally-mandated project, collects and reports data on the educational
achievement of American students in core subjects of the school curriculum. The
first NAEP in citizenship was conducted in 1969. Other NAEPs involving
citizenship and social studies were administered in 1971, 1975, and 1981. In
1988, there was a NAEP in civics and government (Anderson and Others 1990). This
Digest discusses the framework, assessment procedures, and findings of the 1998
NAEP in civics.
The "National Standards for Civics and
Government" (Quigley and Others 1994) guided development of the framework for
the 1998 NAEP in civics (NAEP Civics Consensus Project 1996). All facets of this
national assessment, from construction of test items to interpretation of
results, were conducted in terms of the framework, which includes the three
interconnected components of civic knowledge, civic skills, and civic
The civic knowledge component is based on five fundamental questions that
denote ideas and information essential to the citizen's comprehension of
democracy in the United States:
* What are civic life, politics, and government?
* What are the foundations of the American political system?
* How does the government established by the Constitution embody the
purposes, values, and principles of American democracy?
* What is the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world
* What are the roles of citizens in American democracy?
The civic skills component refers to intellectual and participatory abilities
that enable citizens to use knowledge to respond effectively and responsibly to
the challenges of political and civic life in a democracy. The civic
dispositions pertain to traits of character and habits of participation by which
citizens may promote the common good in a democracy.
In accordance with federal government policy, the NAEP in civics directly
tests only the knowledge and intellectual skills components of the framework;
however, it is important to note that civic knowledge and intellectual skills in
combination with participatory skills and civic dispositions constitute a
complete conceptualization of civic education presented in the framework, which
is a model for curriculum development and instruction in schools.
THE ASSESSMENT PROCEDURES.
Test items for the 1998 NAEP in
civics were developed to measure the knowledge and intellectual skills
components of the framework. Because it was not possible to test students'
actual civic participation and dispositions, items were included to test instead
students' ability to identify and comprehend the purposes and effective
applications of participatory skills and civic dispositions. Most test items
were multiple-choice. There were, however, both "short constructed response"
items and "extended constructed response" items, which required students to
write their answers to questions.
Three levels of achievement -- basic, proficient, and advanced -- specify the
expectations of student performance in civics at grades four, eight, and twelve.
The basic level represents partial mastery of knowledge and intellectual skills
in the framework that are prerequisites for competence in civics. The proficient
level designates fully competent performance in terms of the civics framework.
The advanced level signifies superior achievement in civics.
Respondents in the 1998 NAEP in civics were identified through selection of
nationally representative samples of students in public and private schools at
grades four, eight, and twelve. The assessed sample sizes at each grade level
were 5,948 at grade four, 8,212 at grade eight, and 7,763 at grade twelve.
Students were asked to respond to civics assessment items and questionnaires
about personal characteristics and experiences presumably related to achievement
in civics. Teachers of the student respondents were asked to complete
questionnaires about curricular content and classroom practices.
The basic level of achievement was attained
by 46% of students at grade four, 48% at grade eight, and 39% at grade twelve.
The proficient level was reached by 21% of students at grade four, 21% at grade
eight, and 22% at grade twelve. The advanced level was achieved by 2% of
students at grade four, 2% at grade eight, and 4% at grade twelve.
Another way to look at the overall findings is to note that 31% of the
fourth-grade students were below the basic level of achievement and 69% were
above it; at grade eight, 29% were below and 71% were above the basic level; and
at grade twelve, 35% were below and 65% were above the basic level.
Performances on the 1998 NAEP in civics varied significantly according to
certain group identities or memberships. At all grades, for example, students
identified as white or Asian/Pacific Islander tended to have higher test scores
than those identified as black or Hispanic. In general, the higher the level of
formal education students' parents had attained, the better the students
performed on this assessment. And at all three grades, students in nonpublic
schools tended to achieve higher scores than students in public schools.
Further, among the nonpublic school students, those in Catholic schools tended
to reach higher levels of achievement. At all three grade levels, students who
qualified for the federally funded free or reduced-price school lunch program
tended to score lower on this civics assessment than student not eligible for
this program. This finding suggests there may be a general relationship between
lower socioeconomic status and lower performances in civics.
Performances in this civics assessment were related to variations in
particular home and school experiences of students, as revealed in responses to
student and teacher questionnaires. For example, regular discussion of school
work at home was related to higher performance on this civics assessment.
Students in grade twelve who volunteered in their communities tended to have
higher civics scores than those who never volunteered. Students in grades four
and eight, who were regularly involved in group activities or projects tended to
outscore those who rarely or never participated in this kind of classroom
assignment. Finally, there was a relationship between using the Internet in
school for civics assignments and higher achievement on this assessment.
Information in this Digest on the assessment procedures and findings of the
1998 NAEP in Civics was taken from the "NAEP 1998 Civics Report Card for the
Nation." For information on how to order this or any other NAEP Publication,
write: U.S. Department of Education (ED Pubs); P.O. Box 1398; Jessup, MD
20794-1398 or call toll free: 1-877-4ED PUBS. You may also visit NAEP on the
World Wide Web: <http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard>.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of
resources includes references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by
an ED number are available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC
Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information about prices, contact
EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia 22153-2852;
telephone numbers are (703) 440-1400 and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an
EJ number, annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE),
are not available through EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal
section of most larger libraries by using the bibliographic information
provided, requested through Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from commercial
Anderson, Lee, and Others. THE CIVICS REPORT CARD. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Education, 1990. ED 315 376.
Craig, Elaine. "The National Standards Assessment: Implications for
California Schools." SOCIAL STUDIES REVIEW 35 (Fall 1995): 42-45. EJ 522 206.
Hanick, Patricia L., and Susan Cooper Loomis. SETTING STANDARDS FOR THE 1998
NAEP IN CIVICS AND WRITING: USING FOCUS GROUPS TO FINALIZE THE ACHIEVEMENT LEVEL
DESCRIPTIONS. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council on
Measurement in Education. Montreal, Canada, April 20-22, 1999. ED 431 814.
Lutkus, Anthony, and Others. NAEP 1998 CIVICS REPORT CARD FOR THE NATION.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 1999.
Mann, Sheilah. "Political Scientists Examine Civics Standards: Introduction."
PS: POLITICAL SCIENCE AND POLITICS 29 (March 1996): 47-49. EJ 533 333.
NAEP Civics Consensus Project. CIVICS FRAMEWORK FOR THE 1998 NATIONAL
ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Education, 1996. ED 407 355.
Nie, Norman H., Jane Junn, and Kenneth Stehlik-Barry. EDUCATION AND
DEMOCRATIC CITIZENSHIP. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996. ED 416
Niemi, Richard G., and Chris Chapman. THE CIVIC DEVELOPMENT OF NINTH- THROUGH
TWELFTH-GRADE STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Education, 1999. ED 429 027.
Niemi, Richard G., and Jane Junn. CIVIC EDUCATION: WHAT MAKES STUDENTS LEARN.
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999. ED 431 658.
Quigley, Charles N., and Others, eds. NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR CIVICS AND
GOVERNMENT. Calabasas, CA: Center for Civic Education, 1994. ED 374 074.
Torney-Purta, Judith, and Others, eds. CIVIC EDUCATION ACROSS COUNTRIES:
TWENTY-FOUR NATIONAL CASE STUDIES FROM THE IEA CIVIC EDUCATION PROJECT.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands: International Association for the Evaluation of
Educational Achievement, 1999. ED 431 705.