After fourth grade, Latino students show no progress in learning geography

LatinaLista — If there’s one single bit of news to cheer about regarding today’s release of The Nation’s Report Card: Geography 2010 by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), it’s that fourth graders still love to learn.

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In fact, it’s only among fourth graders where the achievement gap has been narrowed among black, Latino and white students.

From 1994-2010, Black students narrowed the score gap with White students by 20 points; Hispanic students narrowed the score gap with White students at grade 4 by 13 points.

Black students went on to narrow the achievement gap with White students in grade 8 by 9 points but Latino students’ results were flat for both grades 8 and 12 — not a good sign.

Neither was it good to read that the boys outperformed the girls or that “at grade 12, the percentage of students at or above Proficient was lower in 2010 than in earlier assessment years.”

What does it mean?

It means that today’s students are failing to develop three important cognitive skills:

Knowing
Questions in this area ask students: What is it? Where is it? Students should be able to observe different elements of the landscape and answer questions by recalling, for example, the name of a place.

Understanding

The questions about Understanding ask students: Why is it there? How did it get there? What is its significance? Students should be able to attribute meaning to what has been observed and explain events.

Applying

Finally, students are asked to apply what they’ve learned. How can knowledge and understanding be used to solve geographic problems? Students should be able to classify, hypothesize, use inductive and deductive reasoning, and form problem-solving models.

The failure of developing these skills goes beyond geography. They serve as the foundation of any society that can read and analyze information and make their own informed decisions.

As David P. Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, commented, “Geography is not just about maps. It is a rich and varied discipline that, now more than ever, is vital to understanding the connections between our global economy, environment, and diverse cultures.

Yet, the overriding question is how to make kids care about the rest of the world outside their own life bubbles.

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