Although fourth-graders made gains in achievement since 2001, The Nation's Report Card shows that performance by eighth-graders remained flat, and achievement by 12th-graders declined from 1994.
Male students scored higher than female students in all three grades and black and Hispanic students' scores increased at grades 4 and 8, with achievement gaps narrowing.
The scores follow similar reports on civics and U.S. history and, add to the picture of stagnating or declining overall achievement among U.S. students in the social sciences, according to NAEP.
In particular, the pattern of disappointing results for our 12th-graders' performance across all three social science subjects should be of great concern to everyone, says David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP.
-Only half of fourth-graders correctly put the following in descending order of size: North America, the U.S., California and Los Angeles.
-Half of all twelfth-graders could not pinpoint glaciation as the catalyst for the formation of the Great Lakes.
-Shown a picture of tectonic plates near Japan, a third of all eighth-graders indicated they had no understanding of their relationships to earthquakes.
-Among all eighth-grade students who took the test, only 33% got the correct answer for this question:
Which of the following is an accurate statement about the American Southwest?
a. Alternating areas of dense shrubbery and sand dunes often make travel difficult.
b. Arid conditions make access to water an important public issue.
c. Generally fair weather means that most people rely on solar energy in their homes and businesses.
d. Easy access to Mexico has led to a strong manufacturing sector.
(The correct answer is b.)
As classroom time becomes an even more precious and scarce commodity, geography, with subjects such as history and the arts, is losing out in the zero-sum game that results from high-stakes testing, Pennsylvania State University geography professor Roger M. Downs said in a statement released with the results.
Because of students' dependence on technology, the ability to read a map seems to be becoming a lost art, Shannon Garrison, a member of the board overseeing the test, said in a statement.
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