Students are advancing their civic education at an earlier age, according to the Nation’s Report Card: Civics 2010, recently released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Students in grades 4, 8, and 12 participated in the 2010 NAEP assessment tests to measure their understanding of civics concepts as well as their skills to participate in civic activities.  Compared to the results of assessments given in 2006 and 1998, fourth graders showed the greatest improvement in scores.

According to the NAEP, “assessment questions address the following three interrelated components: knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills, and civic dispositions. Taken together, these components should form the essential elements of civic education in the United States.”

Civic knowledge reflects an understanding of civics concepts – including democracy and the role of government – while intellectual skills encompass “skills of mind and action” that bridge concept with action, and civic disposition refers to characteristics or traits that enable an individual to participate in the civic process in a productive manner.

Seventy-seven percent of fourth graders performed at or above the “basic” level, meaning they demonstrated partial mastery of the knowledge and skills deemed fundamental for their grade level.  Twenty-seven percent earned scores at the “proficient” level, while just two percent reached the “advanced” level.

To illustrate the types of concepts and skills among fourth graders at each level, the NAEP provided the following  examples: Fourth grade students at the basic level understood that taxes are the main source of government funding. Those at the proficient level could identify the purpose of the U.S. Constitution, while the select respondents at the advanced level could explain two ways in which countries can deal with shared problems.

The NAEP provides an opportunity to test your civics knowledge by taking a sample test at each of the three grade levels. Visit the Test Yourself in Civics page to see if how your civic smarts measure up.

The 2010 Civics Report Card can be accessed via this link.