Five For Friday: Geography Report Card Coverage

Use MapMaker’s 1 page maps for testing you geography knowledge with blank maps, coloring, or illustrating multiple choice questions from NAEP
Last week we posted on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)’s national report card on geography education. Media across the country reported on the story as well, snagging great quotes from geography education experts, embarrassing their readers/viewers with geography quizzes, and even offering humorous and satirical prose on the sad state of our children’s geo-literacy. In recognition and appreciation of this coverage, here are 5 articles that caught our attention. 
1. The Chicago Tribune took important facts from the report and suggested their implications for children’s level of understanding.  
“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.”

2. Time’s NewsFeed opined that the abysmal scores were unsurprising, considering the geographical illiteracy of American adults. 
“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.”
3. On Denver’s Westword education blog, Melanie Asmar writes about Colorado’s steps towards fixing geographical illiteracy by integrating social studies into the benchmark standardized tests (not the most comprehensive or inventive idea, but surely a start). Perhaps more importantly, and more amusingly, she points to an article from 2010 that refers to the process of testing…which includes an entertaining letter from an exasperated geography professor whose college students confuse Alaska with Germany, and invent a new state, “South Virginia.” 
4. Another good factual overview by U.S. News highlighted the symbolic link between testing and prioritizing geography education. They interviewed National Geographic Education’s Daniel Edelson, who said the following: 
“When they decided to postpone the administration [of the geography tests], the geography education community expressed a lot of concern,” he says, referring to a new testing schedule that placed a greater emphasis on math and reading after the No Child Left Behind law was passed in 2001. “But no one really cared.”
5. My absolute favorite article was this satire out of The Daily Iowan: 
“My question is: What’s the big deal? Who cares that only 50 percent of fourth-graders can correctly rank LA, California, the United States, and North America in order of size? I don’t know about any of you readers, but when I was in fourth grade, I was too busy mackin’ on girls and makin’ bank tradin’ Pokémon cards to care about the foundation of my spatial relationship with anything of any significance.”
Like a few other articles, the Daily Iowan links to the famous Miss Carolina map video, reminding us that brains are more important than beauty. 
While geography education hasn’t improved much, we’re happy that the NAEP brought awareness to the situation. Early next week, we’ll show you a YouTube video we’ve been producing that shows National Geographic interns taking sample questions from the NAEP test. To see the video, check back to this post, visit our Facebook wall, or follow our Twitter updates.   
-Cedar Attansio, for My Wonderful World

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