Even as schools aim to better prepare students for a global work force, fewer than one in three American students are proficient in geography, with most eighth graders unable to explain what causes earthquakes or accurately describe the American Southwest…
The average test score for 12th graders declined to 282 (on a scale of 500) from 284 in 2001 when the test was last given. It remained essentially unchanged for eighth graders during that period, though there were gains among the lowest-performing students. Fourth graders had the largest gains, with the average score rising to 213, up five points from 2001.
“Geography is not just about maps,” said David P. Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, who expressed concern that students were not doing better in geography. “It is a rich and varied discipline that, now more than ever, is vital to understanding the connections between our global economy, environment and diverse cultures…”
Roger M. Downs, a geography professor at Pennsylvania State University who has studied the results, said that while he was encouraged by the improving test scores for fourth graders, and for low-performing and minority students, he was concerned that “geography’s role in the curriculum is limited and, at best, static.”
“That is ironic given the convincing case that can be made for the importance of geographic literacy,” Mr. Downs said. “But it is doubly ironic given a world in which adults and now children have smartphones and tablets that can download maps on the fly, provide directions to places, and give your location to your friends…”
Some of our local high school graduates would have a hard time finding a rock concert one state over – except for the freeway taking them straight to the appropriate city.
I know it’s an easy hit to comment on the ignorance our school systems roll out like so many candy bars on a Cadbury production line. There still breathes a jot or two of hope that repeated smacks on the bottom will jolt some life not only into voters who easily share missing the absence of educated graduates – but, folks who care about how and what combines into local movements to turn our education systems back into something that once did our country proud.