Few are proficient in geography

Fourth graders know more geography, eighth graders are about the same and 12th graders are losing ground, according to the Nation’s Report Card: Geography 2010 by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Fewer than one third of students are proficient.

In geography, civics and U.S. history, achievement is stagnating or declining, NAEP advises.

“In particular, the pattern of disappointing results for our twelfth graders’ performance across all three social science subjects should be of great concern to everyone,” said David P. Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP.

The lowest-scoring students made gains at all three grade levels, and some racial/ethnic achievement gaps narrowed.

A proficient fourth grader can recognize what prevents soil erosion, a proficient eighth grader can explain the effects of a monsoon in India and a proficient 12th grader can explain why Mali is considered overpopulated.

Some of the 12th grade questions are challenging:

The diagram shown is a profile of a content from West to East (shown in miles) and elevation (showed in feet or height off of the ground). In the West, the elevation starts at 0, and quickly rises to its maximum elevation of 23,000 feet approximately 750 miles inland. After the this high point, the elevation drops steadily back to 0 at the most easternmost point of the continent, approximately 3,260 miles from the westernmost point of the continent.

The diagram above shows a profile of which continent?

  1.   Europe
  2.   South America
  3.   Antarctica
  4.   Africa

I got it right, but it was an educated guess.

Go here for sample questions.

This map of The World According to Americans represents the way many of us were taught as children, writes Lynne Diligent.

These maps are about feelings rather than knowledge, writes Diligent, who lives overseas.

I used to play a geography game with my father. I’d close my eyes, spin the globe and point to a place. He’d tell me about it. I loved the sound of “Addis Ababa” and “Haile Selassie,” the Lion of Judah.  Later, I played a German game, Weltreise, that taught me the best air, rail and shipping routes. My favorite was Montevideo to Kapstadt (Capetown) to Adelaide by boat.