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National History Test Results Aren't Too Hot, But Could You Pass the Exams?

According to a new national report card, only 9 percent of fourth graders could identify Abraham Lincoln and give two reasons why he's important.

When it comes to history, are you smarter than a fourth grader? The just-released results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress U.S. History 2010 Report Card show that of 30,000 students tested in 2010, only 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders, and 12 percent of seniors are proficient in American history. Federal officials celebrated a slight increase in scores for eighth graders since 2006, and scores for all grade levels are higher than they were in 1994, but only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question about Brown v. Board of Education, and only 9 percent of fourth graders could identify a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and give two reasons why he's important.

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Mock Slave Auctions: How Not to Teach Kids About America's History

When it come to educating kids about slavery, teachers should think twice about the appropriateness of their hands on learning activities.


When it comes to educating kids about the Civil War and slavery, teachers might want to think twice about the appropriateness of their experiential learning activities. According to the Washington Post, Jessica Boyle, a fourth grade teacher at Sewells Point Elementary School in Norfolk chose to teach a lesson on the Civil War by turning her classroom into a slave auction. Boyle segregated her students—black and mixed race students on one side of the room, and white students on the other. The teacher then had the white students, all around ten years old, play the role of slave master and take turns purchasing their black and biracial peers.

The incident came to light after parents, understandably, complained. The school's principal, Mary B. Wrushen, sent a letter home stating that although Boyle's "actions were well intended to meet the instructional objectives, the activity presented was inappropriate for the students." Wrushen said the lesson was not supported by the school or district and acknowledged that it "could have been thought through more carefully, as to not offend her students or put them in an uncomfortable situation."

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