NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Students' Knowledge of Geography is Only at 'Basic' Level

June 24, 2002

Although U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders evidenced small improvements in their knowledge of geography between 1994 and 2001, on average they still have only a basic understanding of the subject. That is the conclusion of the Department of Education based on a national test just released.

The performance of high school seniors on the National Assessment of Educational Progress remained flat since the test was last given in 1994 -- with only one in four achieving proficiency in the subject.

  • Only 61 percent of fourth-graders and 71 percent of eighth-graders knew the Pacific Ocean is the world's largest.
  • One in three fourth-graders and 14 percent of high school seniors did not know that earthquakes were measured on the Richter scale.
  • When shown a map of the U.S., one in three fourth-graders could not identify the state in which they lived and 16 percent of eighth-graders could not locate the Mississippi River.

Student results on the geography test were similar to other recent NAEP results -- which showed disappointing results in history, science, reading and math.

Source: Michael A. Fletcher, "In Test, Students Lack Geography Knowledge," Washington Post, June 22, 2002.


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