The Test 12th Graders Flunked





Diane Ravitch famously asked, years ago,"What do our 17 year olds know"? Judging by new test results released on May 9 by the National Center for Education Statistics the answer remains: not much.

Researchers surveyed some 23,000 students in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades at over a thousand schools (both public and private) in 2001. Below is a list of sample U.S. history questions most 12th graders missed.

QUESTIONS MOST 12TH GRADERS MISSED

MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR

The United States acquired large portions of the Southwest as a result of the:

A) War of 1812
B) Mexican-American War
C) Civil War
D) Spanish-American War

Students who knew the correct answer? 40 percent.

RECONSTRUCTION

The struggle between President Andrew Johnson and the Radical Republicans was mainly over:

A) United States alliances with European nations
B) the nature and control of Reconstruction
C) the purchase of Alaska
D) whether or not to have a tariff

Students who knew the correct answer? 34 percent.

NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact are best described as two:

A) organizations founded by the European Economic Community to promote trade between Europe and the United States
B) treaties negotiated between the Allies and the Central Powers at Versailles after the First World War
C) bodies established by the United Nations to promote peace within multiethnic European countries such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia
D) military organizations made up, respectively, of the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War

Students who knew the correct answer? 30 percent.

CONTAINMENT

The policy described was part of a larger policy of the Truman administration that was referred to as:

A) nativism
B) massive retaliation
C) isolationism
D) containment

Students who knew the correct answer? 26 percent.

TONKIN GULF RESOLUTION

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964) was significant because it:

A) ended the war in Korea
B) gave President Johnson the authority to expand the scope of the Vietnam War
C) was an attempt to take foreign policy power away from the President
D) allowed China to become a member of the United Nations

Students who knew the correct answer? 29 percent.

BUT ...

A MAJORITY OF 12TH GRADERS GOT THESE ANSWERS RIGHT

UPTON SINCLAIR

In which book did Upton Sinclair describe the terrible working and food-production conditions in the meat-packing industry?

A) The Grapes of Wrath
B) The Pit
C) The Octopus
D) The Jungle

Students who knew the correct answer? 60 percent.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN

What was Bryan arguing in his"Cross of Gold" speech?

A) Free coinage of silver would cause a depression.
B) The gold standard was needed to preserve economic stability.
C) The gold standard harmed some groups in society.
D) The government should stop buying silver immediately.

Students who knew the correct answer? 52 percent.

JAPANESE INTERNMENT

"We now know what we should have known then — not only was the evacuation wrong but Japanese Americans were and are loyal Americans." -- Gerald R. Ford, 1976

The"evacuation" that Ford refers to directly affected:

A) Japanese Americans and German Americans
B) Japanese citizens living on the East Coast
C) United States citizens of Japanese descent
D) Japanese soldiers serving in the United States Army

Students who knew the correct answer? 55 percent.


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Randll Reese Besch - 4/15/2006

Perhaps you need to see the importance of those particular periods in history from the aquisition of the Mexican states to NATO in our present time. What is now was built upon from yesterday. A hint,Mexico was forced to give up those states to the USA and added to the size of the belligerent nation in 1848. Some want that land stolen from them back!


Jeff Schneider - 8/4/2004

How many questions were on your test? Were all the questions simple, straight forward, and factual?

Wasn't it true that the students scored about 62-65% RIGHT???

What's passing in your school?


Jeff Schneider - 8/4/2004

How many questions were on your test? Were all the questions simple, straight forward, and factual?

Wasn't it true that the students scored about 62-65% RIGHT???

What's passing in your school?

Read the articles on the history and process of national history tests in the winter issue of JAH. They are all about the same results from 1900 to 1976 to 2000.

Jeff Schneider, Midwood High School Brooklyn


Johnny Johnson - 5/23/2002

I fail to see any relevance to percentages of the questions answered right or wrong. Actually, I would have preferred that the answers we included so that i could have checked myself.

Also, I'm sure these tests included many more questions than these. Why were these particular questions important?

Johnny Johnson
Poetry1953@yahoo.com

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