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MUST READ: Report: Students don't know much about US history

U.S. students don’t know much about American history.

Just 13 percent of high school seniors who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, called the Nation’s Report Card, showed a solid grasp of the subject. Results released Tuesday showed the two other grades didn’t perform much better, with just 22 percent of fourth-grade students and 18 percent of eighth-graders demonstrating proficiency.

The test quizzed students on topics including colonization, the American Revolution and the Civil War, and the contemporary United States. For example, one question asked fourth-graders to name an important result of the U.S. building canals in the 1800s. Only 44 percent knew that it was increased trade among states.

‘‘The history scores released today show that student performance is still too low,’’ Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. ‘‘These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education.’’

Education experts said a heavy focus on reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind law in the last decade has led to lagging performance in other subjects such as history and science.

‘‘We need to make sure other subjects like history, science and the arts are not forgotten in our pursuit of the basic skills,’’ said Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University and former U.S. assistant education secretary.

Of the seven subjects on the national test, students performed the worst in U.S. history. Officials with the National Assessment Governing board, which oversees the tests, said the results aren’t comparable to the other tests because different students take each exam in different years.

The scores on the history test did not vary remarkably from years past; in 1994, for example, 19 percent of fourth-grade students scored proficient or better in U.S. history.