Where Is America? Only One Quarter of U.S. Students Are Proficient in Geography

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Add this to the list of subjects students in the U.S. are not so good at. First science and math, now geography.

A report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found only about one-fourth of American students are proficient in geography. Twenty-one percent of fourth grade students, 27% of eighth graders and just 20% of 12th grade students performed at or above the proficient level on the 2010 geography assessment, according to Reuters.

Additionally, the report found while fourth graders did slightly better than the last assessment in 1994, eighth-grade students stayed roughly the same and 12th graders actually declined in geographic awareness.

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While the report is concerting, the geography testing is not simply testing where a given country is on a map. (Although who knows if students would have fared better on a test of that nature.) The assessment, also called the Nation’s Report Card, tests students overall subject knowledge and problem-solving skills. For example, as noted by the New Jersey Star-Ledger, 55% of fourth-graders knew the answer to the following question: The most common use of land in the Great Plains region of the United States is for A) fishing B) farming C) mining or D) recreation. (The correct answer is B, farming.)

Fifty-five percent of fourth graders answering the above question correctly doesn’t seem all that bad. After all, according to a recent survey, one in four adults in the U.S. do not know what country we declared independence from.

But the report does add some weight to beauty pageant contestant Lauren Upton’s baffling answer to the question of why one-fifth of Americans are unable to locate the U.S. on a map. Maybe it’s simply because “some people out there in our nation don’t have maps.” Right.


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