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The Nation's Report Card: Geography 2010

July 2011

Author: National Center for Education Statistics

PDF Download The Nation's Report Card: Geography 2010 PDF for viewing and printing (14048K PDF)


The cover image of the NAEP 2010 Geography report card.

Executive Summary

Students make progress in geography at grade 4 but not at grades 8 and 12

Scores for lowest-performing students increase from 1994 at all three grades

Percentages of fourth- and eighth-graders at or above Basic higher than in first assessment year

About one-quarter of students perform at or above the Proficient level in 2010

Percentages of students at Advanced decrease from 1994 at grades 4 and 8

Examples of knowledge demonstrated at each achievement level

White – Black score gaps narrow at grades 4 and 8

Male students score higher than female students at all three grades

What are students studying in geography?

Nationally representative samples of about 7,000 fourth-graders, 9,500 eighth-graders, and 10,000 twelfth-graders participated in the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in geography. At each grade, students responded to questions designed to measure their knowledge of geography in the context of space and place, environment and society, and spatial dynamics and connections. Comparing the results from the 2010 assessment to the results from previous assessments in 1994 and 2001 shows how students’ knowledge and skills in geography have changed over time.

Students make progress in geography at grade 4 but not at grades 8 and 12

In comparison to earlier geography assessments in 1994 and 2001, the average score in 2010 was

  • higher than the scores in both years at grade 4,
  • not significantly different from the score in either year at grade 8, and
  • not significantly different from the score in 2001 (accommodated sample) but lower than the score in 1994 at grade 12.

Trend in fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade NAEP geography average scores


Image of three graphics showing trend in fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade NAEP geography average scores.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2010.
See complete data for grade 4, grade 8, and grade 12.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994, 2001, and 2010 Geography Assessments.

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Scores for lowest-performing students increase from 1994 at all three grades

Although the overall average scores at grades 8 and 12 may not have increased, scores for the lowest-performing students (at the 10th percentile) were higher in 2010 than in 1994 at all three grades. In comparison to 1994, the score for students at the 10th percentile was 23 points higher at grade four, 7 points higher at grade eight, and 3 points higher at grade twelve.

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Percentages of fourth- and eighth-graders at or above Basic higher than in first assessment year

The NAEP Basic level denotes partial mastery of the knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade. Seventy-nine percent of fourth-graders, 74 percent of eighth-graders, and 70 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Basic level in geography in 2010. The percentages of students at or above Basic in 2010 were higher than in 2001 and 1994 at grade 4, higher than in 1994 at grade 8, and not significantly different from the percentages in previous assessment years at grade 12.

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About one-quarter of students perform at or above the Proficient level in 2010

The Proficient level represents solid academic performance. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Twenty-one percent of fourth-graders, 27 percent of eighth-graders, and 20 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level on the 2010 geography assessment. At grades 4 and 8, the percentages of students at or above Proficient in 2010 were not significantly different from the percentages in 2001 and 1994. At grade 12, the percentage of students at or above Proficient was lower in 2010 than in earlier assessment years.

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Percentages of students at Advanced decrease from 1994 at grades 4 and 8

The Advanced level represents superior performance. Two percent of fourth-graders, 3 percent of eighth-graders, and 1 percent of twelfth-graders performed at the Advanced level on the 2010 geography assessment. The percentages of fourth- and eighth-graders at Advanced in 2010 were not significantly different from the percentages in 2001 but were lower than in 1994.

Trend in fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade NAEP geography achievement-level results


Image of bar graph showing trend in fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade NAEP geography achievement-level results.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2010.
NOTE: For grade 12, the percentage at Advanced was lower in 2010 (0.67) than for the 2001 accommodations-permitted sample (1.42).
See complete data for grade 4, grade 8, and grade 12.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994, 2001, and 2010 Geography Assessments.

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Examples of knowledge demonstrated at each achievement level


Basic

  • Recognize the purpose for a building structure shown in a photograph (grade 4).
  • Identify which of four maps shows the most area (grade 8).
  • Graph elevation on a contour map (grade 12).

Proficient

  • Recognize what prevents soil erosion (grade 4).
  • Explain the effect of a monsoon in India (grade 8).
  • Explain the rate of natural increase (grade 12).

Advanced

  • Use a map to understand city development (grade 4).
  • Describe the impact of a highway on a landscape (grade 8).
  • Describe wetland functions (grade 12).

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White – Black score gaps narrow at grades 4 and 8

Black students made larger gains from 1994 to 2010 than White students at grades 4 and 8, narrowing the gap by 20 points at grade 4 and by 9 points at grade 8. Although scores for Hispanic students were higher in 2010 than in 2001 and 1994 at grades 4 and 8, only the fourth-grade gap between White and Hispanic students narrowed in 2010. At grade 12, there were no significant changes from 1994 to 2010 in the average scores for any of the racial/ethnic groups with samples large enough to report results.

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Male students score higher than female students at all three grades

In 2010, male students scored 4 points higher on average than female students at grades 4 and 8, and 5 points higher at grade 12. The gender gaps in 2010 were not significantly different from the gaps in previous assessment years.

  Grade 4 Grade 8 Grade 12
Student Groups Since 1994 Since 2001 Since 1994 Since 2001 Since 1994 Since 2001
Overall Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates score was lower in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
White Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
Black Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
Hispanic Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
Asian/Pacific Islander Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
American Indian/Alaska Native Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate
Male Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates score was lower in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
Female Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
Indicates score was higher in 2010 Indicates score was higher in 2010.
Indicates score was lower in 2010 Indicates score was lower in 2010.
Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010.
Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.


  Grade 4 Grade 8 Grade 12
Gaps Since 1994 Since 2001 Since 1994 Since 2001 Since 1994 Since 2001
White – Black Narrowed Narrowed Narrowed Narrowed Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
White – Hispanic Narrowed Narrowed Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
Male – Female Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010
Indicates no significant change in the score in 2010 Indicates no significant change in the gap score in 2010.

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What are students studying in geography?

47% of fourth-graders had teachers who reported teaching about spatial dynamics and connections once or twice a month in 2010.

64% of eighth-graders reported studying about countries and cultures once a week or more in 2010.

65% of twelfth-graders reported studying about natural resources once a month or more in 2010.

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Download the complete report in a PDF file for viewing and printing:

PDF The Nation's Report Card: Geography 2010 report PDF (14048K PDF)

NCES 2011-467  Ordering information


Suggested Citation
National Center for Education Statistics (2011). The Nation’s Report Card: Geography 2010 (NCES 2011–467). Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

For more information, see the results of the 2010 Geography assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.

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Last updated 13 July 2011 (RH)
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
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