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National test results show students have a poor grasp of civics

WASHINGTON - The results of the 1998 national test of government and civics education show that just 26 percent of 12th-graders - many old enough to vote in next year's elections - have a good understanding of how governments work and the ability to apply what they have learned to concrete situations. The test, called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, was given in 1998 to nationally representative samples totaling 22,000 fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders in public and private schools.

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Fewer than half of 12th-graders knew that the president and the State Department have more authority over foreign policy than Congress or the courts, while only 9 percent could list two ways democratic society benefits from the active participation of its citizens. Similarly, only 6 percent of eighth-graders could describe two ways countries benefit from having a constitution.

States and school districts lack sufficient requirements for civics education, says Charles Quigley, executive director of the Center for Civic Education, in Calabasas, Calif. "The vast majority [of students] are either not being taught civics and government at all or they are being taught too little, too late, and inadequately," Mr. Quigley says. "Under these conditions, you can hardly expect them to do well on such a test."

NAACP proposes state-funded SAT prep

LOS ANGELES - Concerned that pivotal SAT tests are derailing minorities from college, the NAACP has proposed state-funded test preparation classes for students of color while also advocating that the tests be changed. "As we encourage the College Board to make changes in the test, we at the same time say we want our kids to be successful under the rules of the game as they exist today," said Jeffrey Johnson, NAACP youth councils national coordinator, last week. Mr. Johnson praised California's College Preparation Partnership Program, an initiative introduced in 1998 to devote $10 million to test prep classes for urban and minority students. But he also argued a better test should be designed that "more directly correlates with the high school curriculum."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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