National geography-test scores released in the US last week – part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress – revealed that US students are making little progress in their understanding of geography and how people change, and are changed by, their natural environment. Only 23% of fourth-graders, 30% of eighth-graders and 21% of 12th-graders knew enough to be considered “proficient” or “advanced” on the national exam, given in January-March 2010. “Proficient” means students have a solid understanding of challenging material.
Educators offered various explanations. Some blamed students’ obsession with technology, which they said reduces facility with maps. Others said the social sciences, especially geography, are getting pushed out of the curriculum because of the intense focus on math and reading demanded under the federal No Child Left Behind education law.