The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has released The Nation’s Report Card: Geography 2010. The report presents results of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Major findings from the 2010 report include:
· In comparison to the last assessment in 2001, average scores in 2010 were higher at grade 4 and not significantly different at grades 8 and 12.
· Gains for Black students from 1994 to 2010 contributed to a narrowing of the White–Black score gaps at grades 4 and 8.
· Gains for Hispanic students from 1994 to 2010 contributed to a narrowing of the White–Hispanic score gap at grade 4.
· The percentage of students performing at or above the Proficient level in 2010 was 21 percent at grade 4, 27 percent at grade 8, and 20 percent at grade 12.
The results of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card, revealed that U.S. students were making little progress in their understanding of geography and how people change, and are changed by, their natural environment.
The results, which come on the heels of similar disappointing scores on the national history and civics exams, prompted various explanations and laments from educators. Some blamed students’ obsession with technology, which they said reduces facility with maps. Others said the social sciences, especially geography, are getting pushed out of the curriculum because of the intense focus on math and reading demanded under the federal No Child Left Behind education law.
But Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the exam, said the time 12th-graders spent in social-studies class and studying the subject had increased over the past decade. “There’s not a lot there to tell me why,” he said of the results.
Shannon Garrison, who sits on the National Assessment Governing Board, which develops the exam, said geography was an “unclaimed subject” in middle and high school. “In many districts and schools, the responsibility for teaching geography is unclear,” she said.
The exam was given to a representative sample of 7,000 fourth-graders, 9,500 eighth-graders and 10,000 12th-graders in public and private schools. It is scored on a scale of 0 to 500 points. The scores are then broken into “below basic,” “basic,” “proficient” and “advanced.”
Geography is one of eight subjects covered by the assessment program. Students are also tested in math, science, economics, reading, writing, history and civics. The tests date to the 1960s.
Sample Geography Questions
Grade Four: The most common use of land in the Great Plains region of the United States is for
- A. fishing
- B. farming
- C. mining
- D. recreation
Grade Eight: Early settlers on the North American Great Plains used sod to build houses primarily because
- A. they did not have experience building with wood
- B. sod offered greater protection than wood from cold weather
- C. there was little wood available for building
- D. wood houses were vulnerable to prairie fires
Grade Twelve: Which statement is true about the economies of most developing countries?
- A. Their exports are often limited to a few agricultural products or raw materials.
- B. They produce a wide variety of high-technology goods.
- C. Their imports are often limited to manufactured goods.
- D. Their manufacturing sectors are usually well developed.
Answers Grade Four: B; Grade Eight: C; Grade Twelve: A
The geography report is the third this year looking at American students’ social studies knowledge, following civics and history reports released in May and June.
“Obviously, these subjects are intertwined. Geography provides the context for all the others,” said Shannon Garrison, a 4th grade teacher in Los Angeles and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP policy.
All three studies paint a mostly lackluster portrait of American students’ social studies proficiency, as well as a small, persistent gender gap across social studies subjects.
NCES Commissioner Sean P. “Jack” Buckley said the most recent geography assessment tried to go beyond basic recitation of place names to gauge students’ problem-solving abilities and understanding of the connections between physical places and their societies.
Yet Mr. Buckley, the statistics commissioner, said analyses of students’ recorded class time in the NAEP study, as well as separate staffing and high school transcript studies conducted by the NCES, do not show that the social sciences are getting short shrift in schools.
To the contrary: The percentage of students reporting that they studied geography topics such as natural resources, countries and cultures, and environmental issues at least once a month increased 10 percent or more in each topic from 1994 to 2010.