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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

 

U. S. students did worst when it comes to geography

New study shows U.S. students miss boat on geography

 

Tara Malone

Tribune reporter

10:32 a.m. CDT, July 19, 2011

 

Ask a group of twelfth-graders how the Great Lakes formed, and about half can pinpoint the primary cause: glaciations.

Quiz eighth-grade students about the geography of the Southwest, and a third will identify from a multiple-choice listing that arid conditions make water a scarce public resource.

Such responses to a national exam released today reveal the tenuous command that many U.S. schoolchildren have on basic geography, including knowledge of the natural environment, how it shapes society and other cultures and countries.

Fewer than a quarter of high school seniors scored proficiently on the geography test, down from 25 percent in 2001 and 29 percent in 1994, when the national geography exam first was administered. The decline seen in the twelfth-grade scores was the most dramatic of any grade tested.

That means only 21 percent of 12th-graders had at least a solid grasp of geography and could, for instance, explain why Mali is considered overpopulated or explain why the economies of developing countries often are limited to a few agricultural products or raw materials.

Students in grades four and eight fared better.

An estimated 23 percent of fourth-grade students scored at the proficient and advanced level, virtually flat with the 22 percent in 2001, while the performance of eighth-graders was mixed.

More eighth-grade students scored at the proficient level – 27 percent as compared with 29 percent in 2001 – but slightly fewer students placed in the top advanced tier, with 3 percent of test-takers as compared to 4 percent in 2001 earning the highest designation, results show. To score in the top level, students had to show an extensive knowledge of geography that included everything from explaining urban population changes based on a graph or pinpointing a similarity between Los Angeles and San Antonio.

The geography test marks the third social studies exam released this year. Civics and history results previously were released. Across all three disciplines, high school seniors fared the worst.

“The pattern of disappointing results for our twelfth graders’ performance across all three social science subjects should be one of great concern to everyone,” said National Assessment Governing Board Chairman David Driscoll in a statement.

The test results, on a scale from 0-500, also showed:


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