We try to pay a lot of attention to news about geography education. And on some days, it can be downright depressing. USNews just released an item entitled, U.S. Students Are Really Bad at Geography. The article discusses a new report from the Government Accountability Office with findings that likely explain persistent poor showings on the NAEP Geography Assessment results.
The results reported are dismal. Almost 3 in 4 eighth grade children tested as below proficient in geography - a result that shows no improvement in 10 years. And the most recent results for 4th and 12th grade students are even worse. Sigh.
The explanation that came out of the Accountability Office is simple - geography is being squeezed out of the curriculum. The report finds that more than half of social studies teachers spend 10 percent or less of their time on geography. In fact, a majority of states do not even require a geography course in middle school and even less require a geography course to graduate high school. This is partly due to heavy emphasis placed at both the national and state levels on other subjects such as reading, math and science.
The other factor mentioned is a lack of support at the classroom level for teachers. This includes preparation time, professional development and a lack of geographic technology in the classroom.
Over the last few years, we've communicated with hundreds of teachers in the US that are using Lizard Point to help make geography accessible and relevant and engaging to their kids. These teachers understand the importance of geography as critical context to a child's development. And the best ones manage to integrate geography as an aspect of a world view into all of the social studies they teach. This integration of geography into overall learning is a theme that interests us greatly as we plan new features in our site. We believe this is important. The world we share is shrinking and a global understanding is critical for tomorrow's citizens.