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More About NAEP Geography

The NAEP geography assessment presents a broad view of what our nation's students know and can do in geography, measured in the contexts of space and place, environment and society, and spatial dynamics and connections.

On this page, learn more about:

The NAEP geography framework

The National Assessment Governing Board oversees the development of NAEP frameworks that describe the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed in each subject. Frameworks incorporate ideas and input from subject area experts, school administrators, policymakers, teachers, parents, and others. The NAEP Geography Framework PDF File (587 KB) describes the assessment content and how students' responses are evaluated. This framework shaped the 1994, 2001, and 2011 geography assessments.

The assessment exercises and scoring criteria were developed by a committee of geography and measurement experts to capture the goals of the framework. The framework, which describes the goals of the geography assessment and what kind of exercises it ought to feature, was created by the Board through a national comprehensive developmental process involving teachers, curriculum coordinators, academic geographers, assessment experts, and lay people. The Geography Standing Committee was instrumental in the development of the assessment.

The framework describes the types of questions to be included in the assessment, as well as how the questions should be designed and scored.  The geography framework specifies that the assessment should be organized around two primary dimensions:

Content (space and place; environment and society; spatial dynamics and connections), and
Cognitive (knowing, understanding, and applying)

Each question in the assessment has both a content and a cognitive skills dimension. For descriptions of these dimensions, read What Does the NAEP Geography Assessment Measure? and see the distribution of questions for each dimension.

Assessment question formats

At grades 4, 8, and 12, the assessment consisted of multiple-choice questions developed to address the full range of knowledge and skill areas outlined in the geography framework document; and constructed-response questions consisting of short- and extended-response questions.

To learn more, see geography assessment questions in the NAEP Questions Tool.

NAEP also gives questionnaires to teachers, students, and schools that are part of the NAEP sample. Responses to these questionnaires give NAEP information about school policies affecting geography instruction, as well as information from schools about educational resources.

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Number of students who took the assessment

The NAEP 2010 geography assessment was administered nationally to students in grades 4, 8, and 12. More than 7,000 fourth-graders, 9,500 eighth-graders, and 10,000 twelfth-graders participated in the 2010 assessment. See details about participation rates and about sample size and target population.

The NAEP program does not, and is not designed to, report on the performance of individual students. Instead groups of the student population from representative national samples are assessed. For example, NAEP reports results for male and female students, Black and White students, and students in different regions of the country. Students are selected using a complex sampling design.

Permitted accommodations

NAEP has always endeavored to assess all students selected as a part of its sampling process, including students who are classified by their schools as students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners (ELL). The decision to exclude any of these students is made by school personnel. See the types of accommodations permitted for SD and ELL students.

Find inclusion and accommodations information for this assessment:

View the percentages of SD and ELL students identified, excluded, and assessed in geography
View the types of accommodations used and their rates of use

Assessment sample

NAEP assesses representative samples of students rather than the entire population of students. The sample selection process utilizes a probability sample design in which each school and each student has a known probability of being selected (the probabilities are proportionate to the estimated number of students in the grade assessed). Samples are selected according to a complex multistage design, with students drawn from within sampled public and private schools nationwide. See a diagram of sample selection for NAEP state assessments for a non-technical overview of the sampling process.

The Common Core of Data (CCD) file, a comprehensive list of operating public schools in each jurisdiction that is compiled each school year by NCES, served as the sampling frame for the selection of public schools in each state/jurisdiction.

The Private School Survey (PSS), a survey of all U.S. private schools carried out biennially by the Census Bureau under contract to NCES, served as the sampling frame for private schools.

Because each school that participated in the assessment, and each student assessed, represents only a portion of the larger population of interest, the results are weighted to make appropriate inferences between the student samples and the respective populations from which they are drawn. Sampling weights are adjusted for the disproportionate representation of some groups in the selected sample. This includes oversampling of schools with high concentrations of students from certain racial/ethnic groups and the lower sampling rates of students who attend very small schools. Read more about the technical aspects of the NAEP sample design.

View a summary of the national target population for the 2010 geography assessment.
View a summary of the student and school participation rates.

Additional resources

For more information about NAEP, the nation's largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what students know and can do in core subjects, go to Overview.

Explore the results of the 2010 geography assessment.

Explore the most recent NAEP results in any subject on the website of The Nation’s Report Card

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Last updated 31 July 2012 (NB)
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education