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Report Highlights Challenges to Teaching Geography in the U.S.

Report Highlights Challenges to Teaching Geography in the U.S.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) analyzes why most eighth grade students in the U.S. fall below proficient in geography.

According to the report, “[a]bout three-quarters of eighth grade students—the only grade for which trend data are available—were not ‘proficient’ in geography in 2014, according to GAO’s analysis of nationally representative data from the Department of Education (Education).”

The GAO attempted to figure out why geography instruction in the U.S. is lacking and interviewed officials and teachers in several states to do so.

It found a lack of teacher preparation and development in geography, a poor quality of geography materials and a limited use of geography technology in the classroom to be the leading reasons why U.S. students are falling behind in the subject.

Further, in addition to lack of resources, the report found a lack of state standards mandating the instruction.

“Variations in state requirements in geography can limit student access to geography education. According to one university research center’s 2013 survey of states’ geography education requirements, most states did not require geography courses in middle school and high school,” the report said.

Indeed, only 17 states require a geography course in middle school and only 10 have geography instruction as a graduation requirement.

It also doesn’t help that Common Core heavily shifts focus to improving students’ reading and math skills, forcing subjects like geography to receive little attention.

“…prior studies from Education show that instruction time in reading/English and math has increased over past decades, while instruction time in social studies—the vehicle through which geography is generally taught—has declined. Officials from national organizations we interviewed also expressed concern that geography education has not been given the same national priority as reading, math, and science—subjects associated with federal testing requirements under Title I, Part A of ESEA (Elementary Secondary Education Act,” the report said.

The report indicates that in order for U.S. students to improve in geography, more investment through time and resources needs to be dedicated to the subject.

Read the full report here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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