NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Most Eighth Grade Students Are Not Proficient in Geography

October 28, 2015

A study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) nationally showed that about three-quarters of eighth grade students were not "proficient" in geography in 2014. Most significantly, the proficiency levels of eighth grade students have shown no improvement since 1994.

In most states geography is part of the social studies curriculum but the study reports that teachers only spent about 10% of this subject's instructional time on geography. Additionally, the majority of states do not require geography courses in middle school or high school.

GAO's interviews revealed that:

  • Spending time and resources on geography education is difficult because the focus is on the tested subjects.
  • There is a lack of teacher preparation and professional development in geography
  • Poor quality of geography instructional materials.

The relevance of this study is that geography is present across many facets of modern life. The growing use of geographic information and location-based technology across multiple sectors of the economy has prompted questions about whether K-12 students' skills and exposure to geography are adequate for current and future workforce needs.

Nevertheless, the biggest obstacle is the lack of funding for geography-focused programs. The agency stated that without the required funding schools and educators are hindered in their ability to support geography education.

Source: Government Accountability Office. "Most Eighth Grade Students Are Not Proficient in Geography"  October 15, 2015.


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