Students' Geography Basics Improving, U.S. Report Says; but 'Much More Work to Do'; Senior Scores unchanged.(NATION)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 22, 2002 | Go to article overview

Students' Geography Basics Improving, U.S. Report Says; but 'Much More Work to Do'; Senior Scores unchanged.(NATION)


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Many American students have improved their knowledge of geography, but one in three fourth-graders still can't identify his or her home state on a map, according to a federal government report released yesterday.

Since 1994 the knowledge of U.S. students about the world has improved, the federal government said in its 2001 national geography "report card."

However, one-third of fourth-graders who participated can't identify their home states on a map, and one in four eighth-graders doesn't recognize Florida as a peninsula.

"The results show us that we have much more work to do," Education Secretary Rod Paige said at the National Geographic Society headquarters yesterday, where educators reviewed the findings of the 2001 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) on geography.

The good news is that 74 percent of fourth- and eighth-grade students who participated have a basic or better knowledge of geography, said Gary W. Phillips, deputy commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which conducts the NAEP projects.

This is a marked improvement from 1994, when the first NAEP geography test showed that 70 percent of fourth-graders and 71 percent of eighth-graders participating had at least a basic grasp of geography, he said.

Moreover, the biggest gains in both age groups were in the lowest-performing percentiles.

However, high school seniors had disappointing scores: In 1994, 70 percent of seniors had basic or better scores, but despite several years of academic efforts, their 2001 score was 71 percent, not statistically different.

This is unacceptable, Mr. Paige said. American youth enter a world of "24-hour news cycles, global markets, high-speed Internet" and international challenges, he said. "In order for our children to be prepared to take their place in that world ... they must first understand it."

About 24,900 students participated in the NAEP geography project. More than 90 percent attended public schools.

The tests covered physical aspects of the planet, environmental changes and relationships among people, places and regions. …

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