May 1996Download the complete report in a PDF file for viewing and printing. 194K
Governments, economies, and ecosystems do not exist in isolation. People and regions are connected by trade agreements, global markets, communications networks, political alliances, and international organizations. Increasingly, nations are sharing concerns about the global environment. United States foreign and economic policies must account for events across the globe: Competition for jobs in Peoria is as likely to come from Kuala Lumpur as from Fresno. Events from around the world, such as the unification of Germany, affect us in profound ways. If our children are to be productive and responsible citizens of both the United States and the global community, they must know and understand the connections among the world's regions and peoples and the circumstances that lead these connections to evolve and change. In other words, they must have a working knowledge of the subject of geography.
To assess the current level of geography knowledge, the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessed geography at grades 4, 8, and 12. The assessment probed students' ability to recall, understand, analyze, and interpret the broad field of geography. As the nation's foremost ongoing educational survey, NAEP results track trends in students' performance and allow concerned readers to evaluate whether our nation's children are developing the geography skills and knowledge essential for effective participation in the economy and the polity. The highlights of this extensive, innovative assessment are presented in the following pages. (More detailed results can be found in other NAEP reports about the geography assessment. Information on how to obtain these reports is found on the last page of this brochure.)
The structure and content of the geography assessment were guided by a comprehensive framework, or blueprint, developed under the direction of the National Assessment Governing Board. Three geography content areas served as the core organizing structure of the assessment. The content areas, listed on the following page, were intended to ensure that all major branches of geography study were covered and that emphasis on the various areas was balanced.
Student performance is summarized on the NAEP geography scale, which ranges from 0 to 500. In addition, results for each grade are reported according to three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. These achievement levels are based on judgments about what students should know and be able to do in geography. The Basic level denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. The Proficient level represents solid academic performance and demonstrated competence over challenging subject matter. The Advanced level signifies superior performance.
It should be noted that the setting of achievement levels on NAEP is relatively new and in transition. However, those responsible for NAEP also believe that the achievement levels are useful and valuable in reporting on the educational achievement of the nation's students.
The assessment included both multiple-choice questions, such as those shown previously, and constructed-response questions. Constructed-response questions require students to write responses of as little as a few sentences, or as much as a few paragraphs. For example, the question shown below was given to students at grade 8. Some credit was awarded for student responses that were only partially correct. Thirty-six percent of eighth graders received full credit for their responses.
A diverse range of home and school factors influence the ways and extent to which students learn geography. Students who participated in the NAEP assessment were asked to complete questionnaires about their home and school experiences related to geography learning. Also, teachers completed questionnaires about their students' instructional experiences. The results of these surveys help provide a context for interpreting the assessment scores and provide policymakers with information about variables that are positively and negatively related to geography achievement.
NAEP 1994 Geography: A First Look
NAEP 1994 Geography Report Card
The First Look highlights the overall and demographic results, while the Report Card is a more extensive treatment of the findings and includes discussions of contextual factors that are related to geography performance.
For ordering information on these reports, write:
National Library of Education
Office of Educational Research and Improvement
U.S. Department of Education
555 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20208-5641
or call 1-800-424-1616 (in Washington, DC metropolitan area call 202-219-1651).
NCES 96-876 Ordering information
Last updated 26 March 2001 (RH)