A Rising Tide of Mediocrity
If Spanish philosopher George Santayana is correct that those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it, then he may be disappointed in Missouri high school students. In 2017, the latest year for which data are available, only half of Missouri students scored Proficient or higher on the state’s American history exam. That’s not great, but on top of that, the quality of the exam is questionable.
A recent analysis by the Fordham Institute of state civics and U.S. history standards granted Missouri C’s in both. Once again, Missouri holds firm to its spot in the middle of the pack. Overly broad language and incoherent organization are two of the reasons cited for our mediocrity. The recommendations for improving the standards include:
- Reorganizing the American government course so that it is chronological rather than in “strands” or themes
- Including specific examples, such as Supreme Court cases or acts of Congress, wherever possible
- Providing deeper and more specific guidance for teachers
Making sure that our students leave school with a solid grasp of the history of this nation and what it means to be a citizen are two of the more important roles of our public education system. Missouri needs solid and coherent standards, along with assessments that are well aligned to those standards. We need a better framework for schools and districts to graduate students ready to join civil society as knowledgeable citizens.