New York, NY — June 25, 2020 — The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has just been awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The grant, part of the $40.3 million allocated to the NEH as part of the CARES Act, will enable NAS to survey four of the most popular history books used to teach America’s children and create a more accurate and engaging history curriculum.
"For years, the National Association of Scholars has documented the poor state of American history and civics instruction,” said project director David Randall. “This grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will allow NAS to provide a real, fact-based, and comprehensive assessment of and alternative to current history instruction materials.”
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 15% of American eighth-grade students performed at or above NAEP Proficient on the U.S. history assessment in 2018. Although there is room for score improvement in the following four years of secondary education, many students continue into college with a poor understanding of American history. The history instruction of American middle and high school students needs a major overhaul.
Students graduating from American public schools must have a basic understanding of our shared history and civics. Our nation’s failed instruction of U.S. history “is creating a generation of future leaders who will not have a foundational understanding of what makes this country exceptional,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
A lack of comprehensive history textbooks is compounding this problem. “Textbook choice for teachers has in recent decades shrunk to almost nothing. Text-light picture books and easy readers are now almost universal,” reports the American Textbook Council (ATC). NAS seeks to reverse this trend.
David Randall explains: “NAS will produce a white paper that contains within it sample evaluations of the treatment of select periods in U.S. history in four American history textbooks, and a concluding essay on how to generalize these evaluations. Our partners, American Achievement Texting (AAT), will develop high-quality U.S. history instructional units to be used in conjunction with Professor Wilfred McClay’s highly readable U.S. history textbook, Land of Hope (2019).” Randall adds, “Educators who use these units in their teaching, as well as other instructional materials provided by instructional resource developers, could be spurred to improve their offerings. Improved high school instruction in history has further potential to strengthen student interest in history at the post-secondary level and raise the level of public interest in the cultural sector.”
NAS is a network of scholars and citizens united by a commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education. Membership in NAS is open to all who share a commitment to these broad principles. NAS publishes a journal and has state and regional affiliates. Visit NAS at www.nas.org
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this press release do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
If you would like more information about this issue, please email David Randall, project director, at [email protected].