Shockingly Few Students Are Proficient In U.S. History

Which of these do the governments of Canada, France and Australia have in common: a) They are controlled by the military; b) They have constitutions that limit their power; c) They have leaders with absolute power; d) They discourage participation by citizens in public affairs?

If you chose b, you’re smarter than more than 40 percent of America’s eighth graders. But that’s a stubbornly low bar, according to a report released Wednesday by the federal government’s educational research arm.

Students posted relatively low scores on national exams in civics, history and geography in 2014, no better on average than in 2010 and slightly improved from 1994. The tests are the subject exams of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a low-stakes test administered by the federal government to a nationally representative sample of public and private school students. Experts consider it to be the gold standard for measuring student knowledge, but one of its proponents says its definition of proficiency is “aspirational.”

Mary Crovo, deputy executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, which administers the test, argued that the results are particularly important as students seek to make sense of a world buzzing with news about the earthquake in Nepal and riots in Baltimore.

“So many of these headlines relate to the content of these U.S. history, geography and civics assessments,” Crovo said. “Look at Nepal. Look at Baltimore. Look at the Supreme Court. These are all important 21st century issues — challenges that are rooted in the solid understanding of U.S. history and geography.”

Only 18 percent of eighth graders were proficient or better in U.S. history in 2014. They scored slightly better, on average, than the eighth graders who took the first such test in 1994 — but no better than those who took the test in 2010. The increases were on questions about democracy, culture and world role, but not on technology.

us history

Despite the low performance, Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said there is some reason for optimism about the history results. The lowest performers increased their scores, she said, and “Hispanic students are doing remarkably well.” Hispanic students’ average score has increased by 4 points since 2010, and by 13 points since 1994. The share of Hispanic students taking the test rose from 8 percent in 1994 to 26 percent in 2014, she added.

Less than one-fourth of all eighth graders were proficient on the civics exam. Forty percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students made proficiency, compared with 32 percent of white students, 12 percent of Hispanic students, and 9 percent of black students.

The overall average score has increased by 6 points since the test was first given in 1998, and by 4 points since 2010.


For Ted McConnell, executive director of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of School, that increase is not enough.

“These results are disappointing, bad for our nation’s future and not surprising,” McConnell said. “These results are due to a narrowed curriculum and a focus on a few subjects, over all others, that has gone on too long and has to stop. These results are due to policymaker actions that undermine effective instruction in these subjects.”

Due to budget cuts, the U.S. Education Department scaled back its assessment in these subjects. Previous administrations tested more than just the eighth grade. Crovo said she plans to test high school seniors during the next round in 2018.

In geography, a test on which students were asked to use an atlas to identify lakes created by the Hoover Dam, 27 percent of eighth graders were proficient, and overall scores didn’t vary from 1994 to 2014.


White students in 2014 posted scores 4 points higher than white eighth graders in 1994. Black eighth graders scored 11 points higher than in 1994, and Hispanic eighth graders scored 10 points higher. Only 6 percent of students could write a complete answer to a question showing a bar graph of different countries’ life expectancies that asked them to explain factors that may account for differences.

“Barely a quarter to a third of students being able to demonstrate a frankly easy proficiency in these subjects is dangerous to the health of our republic,” McConnell said.

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Why Did The NFL Voluntarily Give Up Its Tax-Exempt Status? Experts Weigh In

The National Football League’s league office voluntarily surrendered its tax-exempt status on Tuesday, which begs the question: Why?

We asked experts of various sorts what they thought, and they offered a number of working theories. Here’s what they said, organized by major themes.

The move is nothing more than a “PR stunt” meant to improve the league’s reputation without tackling more difficult issues.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote in a press release:

The NFL’s sacrifice of its tax exempt status seems more like a PR stunt than a real gain. The tax-exempt status produces a pittance compared to its Congressionally-granted antitrust exemption –- enabling billions in broadcast revenue. The NFL is exempted from laws that govern every other industry and business entity, not to mention huge benefits in state and local subsidies and sweetheart stadium deals. Sacrificing this tax exemption to avoid a distraction -– according to Commissioner Goodell –- should not distract from the real issue: the NFL’s public trust concerning domestic violence, drug use, concussions and other health issues.

The NFL still holds a firm grasp on what could be argued are more powerful government benefits: Stadium subsidies and a powerful antitrust exemption born out of the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. (The exemption provides the league with the broad power to negotiate enormous TV deals on behalf of teams as a single entity.) The NFL, if you didn’t know, is also dealing with a number of other PR crises.

The NFL can now be more secretive about its executive pay.

Michael Leeds, a professor of economics at Temple University in Philadelphia, wrote to The Huffington Post in an email:

I have never known the NFL to give away money without some larger objective in mind. PR seems to be a weak reed, and a notoriously short-lived one. Given the heat they’ve take over executive compensation, pay opacity might be a more reasonable motivation.

As a result of its tax-exempt status, the NFL has had to publicly disclose how much it pays top employees. That has led to increasingly loud criticism in recent years, as league commissioner Roger Goodell’s pay reached $44 million in 2012. The league will now be allowed to avoid many of those disclosures, as Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times detailed on Tuesday.

And that allows them to get rid of a “political headache.”

Philip Hackney, a law professor at Louisiana State University who previously worked as an attorney for the IRS on issues related to tax-exempt organizations, said:

The NFL benefits from giving up its tax exempt status by getting rid of a political headache. As a tax exempt organization, annually the NFL had to disclose Roger Goodell’s salary on the IRS Form 990. When people see his salary and they hear that the organization is a nonprofit tax exempt organization they are surprised and maybe even outraged regarding that fact. Although Goodell must pay tax on that income, it is very hard to explain the NFL’s tax exempt status to the ordinary citizen. They associate the NFL with a lot of money, and assume that such an entity should be paying tax. Obviously some congressmen have been able to get some political mileage out of this issue over a number of years. Giving up the status allows the NFL to move beyond this public relations problem.

A headache that’s not saving the league that much money anyway.

Again, Hackney:

Realistically, there was not a lot of tax savings to the NFL by maintaining its tax exempt status … The NFL may some years have losses and others have gains. A couple of years ago I believe its Form 990 indicated it might have a profit of maybe $9 million. That means it might have a tax payment of around $3.6 million in that year. For an organization that took in maybe $10 billion in that year, this is not a large amount. From looking at recent returns it does not look like the NFL itself would have a particularly large tax obligation. I suspect it chose to maintain its tax exempt status for some time for matters ancillary to tax.

As a bonus, getting rid of the tax-exempt status makes it slightly harder for Congress to bug the league.

Rodney Fort, a sports economist and professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, told HuffPost:

They are out from under scrutiny and “nudging” by Congress — especially about domestic violence (which they can’t do anything about unilaterally anyway without NFLPA [National Football League Players Association]) and that languishing offensive team name issue. (Editor’s note: He’s talking about the Washington Redskins.)

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who has been leading the charge on the tax-exemption issue, had suggested potentially bringing Goodell before the committee — an uncomfortable proposition for anyone, but especially the commissioner of the country’s most popular sports league.

But in Goodell’s view, this is all much ado about nothing: The league already pays a lot in taxes through its individual teams, and the issue had simply become a “distraction.”

As you know, for several years the NFL has discussed the tax exempt status of the league office and the Management Council, and more than a year ago the Finance Committee began a study of whether to relinquish the exemptions. That study has now concluded, and has confirmed that a change in the tax status will not alter the function or operation of the league office or Management Council in any way.

As you [the owners] know, the effects of the tax exempt status of the league office have been mischaracterized repeatedly in recent years. The fact is that the business of the NFL has never been tax exempt. Every dollar of income generated through television rights fees, licensing agreements, sponsorships, ticket sales, and other means is earned by the 32 clubs and is taxable there. This will remain the case even when the league office and Management Council file returns as taxable entities, and the change in filing status will make no material difference to our business. As a result, the Committees decided to eliminate this distraction.

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This Mom Saw In One Drunk Man A Crushing Response To Rape Culture

What started out as one woman’s astute observation about a drunk young man at a bus terminal has turned into a viral sensation slamming rape culture.

Gina Riverós of Argentina took to Facebook with a simple message: It doesn’t matter how drunk someone is or what someone is wearing, it’s not that hard to treat the person with some minimal human respect — the kind that involves not assaulting the person.

Riverós, who according to her Facebook profile works for the Argentinian bus company Andesmar, wrote on April 12:

Ayer, cuando llegué a las 6 de la mañana a la terminal, había un flaco bastante en pedo que diez minutos después dormía…

Posted by Gina Riverós on Sunday, April 12, 2015

In English, the message reads:

Yesterday, when I arrived at 6 in the morning at the [bus] terminal, there was a very drunk guy who 10 minutes later fell deeply asleep.

He had those huge pants that had fallen down, leaving his underwear and half his ass hanging out.

In sum: young, drunk, at dawn, in a sketchy place like a terminal at that hour and with his ass hanging out … and nevertheless, neither I nor any of the women passing by during this spectacle raped him or killed him.

You see, guys, it’s not that hard and no matter how drunk someone is or how they’re dressed, you can respect the life of others???

The 55-year-old mom had no idea her message had been shared more than 30,000 times until her son showed her the screenshot of her post, according to Buzzfeed.

“That day a guy came up to buy a ticket in the morning [and] made a comment about a girl who was around in miniskirts,” Riverós told BuzzFeed Español. “And that made me think of the boy I had seen when I arrived.”

While Riverós noted on Facebook that she’s received plenty of cheers, she said that “not everything has been roses” and that others have called her a bitch and even a “rebel feminazi.”

On the Argentinian social network Taringa, Riverós said she used to host a health-oriented radio show where she heard many people try to justify violence and disrespect toward women.

“The victim is never to blame,” Riverós said on Taringa. “Nothing justifies a punch, an assault, a grope, a rape.”

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Protester Schools MSNBC Anchor About Media Coverage Of Baltimore Riots

A protester approached by MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts on Tuesday offered pointed criticism of the way Roberts’ network and other media have covered the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray this month.

After admitting that looting and rioting were not the best ways to represent the community and to seek answers, the protester, who identified herself only as Danielle, asked Roberts a question of her own.

“My question to you is, when we were out here protesting all last week for six days straight peacefully, there were no news cameras, there were no helicopters, there was no riot gear, and nobody heard us,” she said. “So now that we’ve burned down buildings and set businesses on fire and looted buildings, now all of the sudden everybody wants to hear us.”

“Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cry?” she continued. “I mean, enough is enough. We’ve had too many lives lost at the hands of police officers. Enough is enough.”

Gray was arrested in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore on April 12. It’s unclear why he was approached by police in the first place, but Gray reportedly fled and was later apprehended. Video of his arrest captured by bystanders appeared to show Gray injured but responsive as he was loaded into a police van. He was reportedly not buckled into a seat belt, a violation of the police department’s policy.

A short time after being taken into custody, Gray was rushed off to shock trauma at the hospital, where his spine was found to be nearly completely severed. After a week in a coma, he died on April 19.

Protests actually began in Baltimore the day before Gray’s death and continued for five days without violence. Over the weekend, some protesters clashed with police, although demonstrations remained largely nonviolent.

Police have still not revealed details about Gray’s arrest or the circumstances of his fatal injuries.

Watch the video of the protester speaking with Roberts above.

If you know Danielle, please email or tweet him here and let us know how to get in touch with her.

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6 Maps That Show How Deeply Segregated Baltimore Is

Protests erupted in Baltimore, Maryland, this week following the fatal arrest of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died on April 19 after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody.

The city is deeply segregated, and areas with high percentages of black residents also generally have high unemployment rates. Almost 20 percent of Baltimore families live below the poverty level, and the median family income is $41,385.

Here are a few maps that show how divided the city of Baltimore is today:

White flight, stunted economic growth and high crime have all been issues in Baltimore over the last 60 years. Sandtown-Winchester, Freddie Gray’s neighborhood, has an unemployment rate of 1 in 5, about double the city average, according to a Baltimore City Health Department report cited by Slate.

Source: Census Bureau, Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance, The Jacob France Institute, Baltimore Police Department, The Baltimore Sun

In areas of the city with higher percentages of black residents, hundreds of lots are empty and buildings are standing vacant. Violence broke out in areas with some of the highest rates of empty lots and buildings.
Though the city has promised to take a more proactive approach to addressing abandoned and vacant homes, hundreds are still unoccupied. In Gray’s neighborhood, 34 percent of residential properties are vacant or abandoned, according to the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance.

Source: City of Baltimore

Officer-involved shootings and arrests are also concentrated in areas with more black residents. In Sandtown-Winchester, at least 180 arrests have occurred so far this year. More than 130 were for alleged drug offenses.

Police brutality is a major issue in the city. Baltimore paid $5.7 million in court settlements to victims of police brutality between 2011 and 2014, the Baltimore Sun found. “Years of abuses are every bit as egregious as what the Department of Justice documented in Ferguson, Missouri, and as deserving of a national response,” Conor Friedersdorf wrote in the Atlantic.

Source: City of Baltimore

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