Why are U.S. Students Bad at Geography?


Nearly three-quarters of eighth-graders tested below proficient in geography on the Nation’s Report Card. Now a new study suggests some reasons why. (U.S. News and World Report)

The new government report relied heavily on our own Road Map Project—click here to learn more about the road map for large-scale improvement of K-12 geography education.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Do you agree with this analysis of the challenges facing geography education in the U.S.? Read the short GAO report here.
CLICK TO ENLARGE! Do you agree with this analysis of the challenges facing geography education in the U.S.? Read the short GAO report here.

Discussion Ideas

  • According to the GAO report analyzed in the U.S. News article, what are some reasons U.S. students may not be proficient in geography?
    • “A key challenge to providing geography education is the increased focus on other subjects . . . including the tested subjects of reading, math, and science.”
    • Geography is not a required subject in most states. According to U.S. News, “only 17 states required a geography course in middle school and 10 states required a geography course for students to graduate from high school.”
    • Most geography instruction is incorporated in social studies classes, and social studies teachers reported spending only 10% of their time teaching geography. History, civics/government, and economics are often prioritized.





  • So if geography isn’t finding places on maps, what is it?



In the interest of full disclosure, the GAO report references National Geographic, particularly the educational efforts of the National Geographic Society, Geography Awareness Week, The Road Map Project, and our encyclopedic definitions of GIS and GPS.


U.S. News and World Report: U.S. Students Are Really Bad at Geography

United States Government Accountability Office: Most Eighth Grade Students Are Not Proficient in Geography (listen to a short podcast on the report here!)

Nat Geo: The Road Map Project

Nat Geo: What is Geography?

Nat Geo: What Can You Do With Geography?

Nat Geo: Geography—What Do You Do With That?

Nat Geo: Daily Ideas

Nat Geo: Network of Alliances for Geographic Education

Nat Geo: Educator Spotlight

Nat Geo: Celebrate Geography Awareness Week!

Nat Geo: Geography Awareness Week

5 thoughts on “Why are U.S. Students Bad at Geography?

  1. During years of practice & study in this field, i mean i m who i m because geography. Environment atmosphere, pollution, soil irrigation, habitat, economical geography the list is endless.

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