Less than a quarter of students proficient in history

WASHINGTON Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:28pm EDT

A man portraying inventor and a founding father of the U.S. Benjamin Franklin walks with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (L) alongside The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia in this October 9, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Annie McCormick

A man portraying inventor and a founding father of the U.S. Benjamin Franklin walks with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (L) alongside The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia in this October 9, 2003 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Annie McCormick

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. students are making some gains in their knowledge of American History, but less than a quarter are scoring at or above the proficient level, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The results of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed just 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders, and 12 percent of twelfth graders were performing at or above the proficient level.

The study defines the proficient level as representing solid academic performance and competency.

Even so, for students in the fourth and eighth grades, average scores were the highest since 1994, when the study was first conducted.

The average score for high school seniors, which had been rising in the period from 1994 to 2006, showed a two points drop since then on the 500 point scale used for the tests.

"We are encouraged by the progress of our fourth and eighth graders, particularly by the gains being made by students who traditionally have been among the lowest performers," said David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the report.

"We need to bring even more of these students up to the Proficient level, and we want to see more progress overall by our twelfth graders, who will soon be active citizens," he said in a statement.

Minority groups posted the highest gains in the fourth grade: 23 points for Hispanics and 22 points for Blacks. In eighth and twelfth grades, students narrowed the gap with their white counterparts.

The federal government assessment sampled 7,000 fourth-graders, 11,800 eighth-graders, and 12,400 twelfth-graders in public and private schools.

Also known as the Nation's Report card, the assessment evaluates students knowledge of the historical development of democracy, culture, technology, and America's role in world affairs.

(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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