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Part I. Primary and Secondary Education in the Humanities

Section A. National Measures of Achievement
Indicator I-1 Reading Competency among School-Age Children
Indicator I-2 Writing Proficiency
Indicator I-3 Knowledge of U.S. History
Indicator I-4 Knowledge of Civics
Indicator I-5 Performance on SAT Verbal/Critical Reading & Writing Exams
Section B. High School Course-Taking
Indicator I-6 Credits Earned by Graduating High School Seniors
Indicator I-7 Language Course Enrollment in High Schools
Indicator I-8 Advanced Placement Exams Taken in the Humanities
Section C. Primary- and Secondary-School Faculty
Indicator I-9 Qualifications of Humanities Teachers
Indicator I-10 Demographic Characteristics
Indicator I-11 Humanities Teachers’ Earnings
Indicator I-12 Job Satisfaction of Humanities Teachers


See the
Note on Primary and Secondary Education Data

Since 1980, when the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities declared K–12 education the highest priority in the humanities and called upon scholars and policymakers to turn their attention to the schools, the content and quality of primary and secondary education have been the subject of spirited public debate. The impetus for improvement intensified in 1983 after the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued an even more strongly worded report with the ominous title “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.”1  Since then, state and local school authorities have experimented with a range of strategies for increasing student achievement, particularly among minority and low-income students. The most significant recent policy development at the national level is the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act (Public Law 107-110), which emphasizes regular standardized assessment of student performance in math, reading, and, beginning in the 2007–2008 school year, science.

The selection of indicators of the condition of primary and secondary humanities education presented here reflects the structure of current research on the quality of education. Such research tends to focus on the character of and relationships among three elements: 1) student achievement, 2) curriculum and instruction, and 3) teacher preparation.

1 National Commission on Excellence in Education, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform — A Report to the Nation and the Secretary of Education United States Department of Education by The National Commission on Excellence in Education, April 1983” (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office). Available online at

Note on Primary and Secondary Education Data

Since the high school curriculum usually includes requirements for the study of English, history, and foreign languages, information on teachers and students in these areas is fairly accessible. Regrettably, in other, less frequently studied fields (such as philosophy or art history), data are rarely available.

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