Missouri K-12 history education receives F

Only one state, South Carolina, received an A.

Missouri has been deemed a poor K-12 history educator by a study released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which gave the state an "F" in teaching history.

The state received one out of seven points for "content and rigor" and zero out of three points for "clarity and specificity."

The study set out to review the quality of each state's U.S. history course standards since 2003 in K-12 institutions. Missouri was not alone in its failure; 28 other states received D's or F's.

According to the study, "Historical comprehension is vital if students are to understand their nation and world, and function as responsible, informed citizens."

The study created a list of characteristics deemed necessary for good education standards, including content, rigor, clarity and specificity.

Each characteristic would equal a point. A letter grade was then given based on how many points a state received. The study stated Missouri's history curriculum for fifth and eighth grades essentially are replicas. According to the study, "teachers and students are left with little sense of what they are expected to teach or learn." MU history professor Robert Collins said studies like this are not seeing the real point.

When teaching new students, he believes review of old information is not the main goal.

"I never think of history as being a review," Collins said. "I think of it as learning about it in greater detail and more in depth. "In relation to college history education, the study would depend on several factors, such as teacher preference for reviewing and economic background of students."

MU history professor LeeAnn Whites said the relation between secondary and postsecondary history education is hazy. Whites, who taught at both Virginia Tech and the University of California, said she believes studies like this would not necessarily apply to college education because of the high tier of students at state universities.

"We tend to get students who have stronger backgrounds," Whites said. "I have never felt that the Missouri students have had a weaker background in history than other schools."

Whites emphasized the relationship between postsecondary education and income. She said because the majority of students in college have families with high incomes, they probably come from better school districts and therefore, have a better-rounded education.

Similarly, Collins said our country has comparatively better education than others. He said our education should be more of a progressive process, rather than a quest for a "holy grail" of perfect education. Collins said the amount of information expected from students only reaches its full potential when students know what to do with the information.

"In the end, truly successful education comes from wanting to learn," Collins said. "In the absence of that, you're always going to fall short of real achievement."

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