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U.S. Kids Getting ‘On The Map’

Wed., Oct. 18, 1995

The first comprehensive study of the geographic skill of America’s youngsters shows they are “getting the message that they are part of a larger world,” Education Secretary Richard W. Riley said Tuesday.

“We’re not at the head of the class yet … but it’s a good start,” added National Geographic Society President Gilbert M. Grosvenor in releasing the results of National Assessment of Educational Progress tests.

Nearly three-quarters of the 19,000 pupils tested in the first national study of geographic knowledge showed at least a basic understanding of the subject, the Education Department reported.

The tests given to fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders probed beyond listing capitals and rivers to check young people’s ability to reason.

For example, a map showed a fictional village with two possible locations for a new shopping center and instructed the student to write to the city council advocating one or the other.

“Neither answer is correct, neither answer is incorrect. It is the rationale of the answer that determines the student’s grade,” explained Grosvenor. “Everything about this question has the ring of a real-world situation.”

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