Civics knowledge that kids are supposed to know

Here are some of the “skills” in civics that students demonstrate at different levels — basic, proficient and advanced — as measured by the National Assessment for Educational Progress.

NAEP released new scores on the 2010 civics exam given to nationally representative groups of students in 4th, 8th and 12th grades on Wednesday, with little progress shown in the four years since the last civics exam was given.

Following are skills and some sample questions:

Basic — students have achieved partial mastery of the knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade.

*Grade 4: Recognize taxes as the main source of government funding

*Grade 8: Identify a right protected by the First Amendment

*Grade 12: Interpret a political cartoon 

Proficient — students have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter and achieved “solid academic performance to which all students at each grade assessed should aspire.”

*Grade 4: Identify a purpose of the U.S. Constitution

*Grade 8: Recognize a role performed by the Supreme Court

*Grade 12: Define the term “melting pot” and argue if it applies to the U.S. 

Advanced— students have demonstrated superior performance:

*Grade 4: Explain two ways countries can deal with shared problems

*Grade 8: Name two actions citizens can take to encourage Congress to pass a law

*Grade 12: Compare the citizenship requirements of the U.S. to other countries





Grade 4

1. What is one of the basic purposes of government in the United States?

A. To protect the rights of individuals

B. To have fire drills in public buildings

C. To elect a new President every four years

D. To keep criminals in federal prisons


2. Who decides whether a law follows the Constitution or not?

A. The secretary of state

B. The Supreme Court

C. The governor of a state

D. Individual citizens



Grade 8

3. What do all constitutional governments have?

A. Legal limits on political power

B. A President as the head of government

C. A bill of rights

D. Separation of church and state


4. Which of the following most limits the ability of the United Nations to stop wars between different countries?

A) The United Nations does not usually have the authority to enforce its decisions.

B) Member countries have to communicate with each other in too many different languages.

C) Too many large countries belong to the United Nations.

D) Too few democratic countries belong to the United Nations.



Grade 12

5. In recent years, a United States President and a Japanese Prime Minister would most likely have argued over which issue?

A. Japan’s wish to enter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

B. Japan’s development of nuclear weapons

C. America’s desire to have greater access to Japanese markets

D. America’s discrimination toward Japanese nationals


6. Federalism: A way of organizing a nation so that two or more levels of government have authority over the same land and people.

Which fact about American government reflects the above definition of federalism?

A. Power is divided among legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

B. Private organizations in the United States do much of the work that is performed by local governments in other countries.

C. Citizens in the United States are subject to both state and federal laws.

D. Citizens in the United States have a right to protection from intrusion into their private affairs.


Answers: 1-a; 2-b; 3-a; 4-a; 5-c; 6-c