April 23, 2020 marks the date for The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)’s release of the 2018 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Geography Report Card, along with the nation’s 2018 assessments of U.S. History and Civics education.

This year’s Geography Report Card is particularly important, as the NAEP is not due to assess geography again over the coming decade. The data collected in 2018 could be the only such information available for insight into geography education for the foreseeable future.

Popularly known as the Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is the largest, continuous, national assessment of what U.S. students know and can do in school subjects. Since 1994, NAEP has conducted nationally representative studies of student achievement in geography. The 2014 assessment showed a critical shortfall in geographic literacy among students, with three out of four eighth graders scoring below the “Proficient” level (defined by NAEP as competency over challenging subject matter).

NAEP results provide an important window on the status and needs for geography education in the United States. The data can be analyzed on the basis of geographic region, school factors (including sector), student demographics, and teacher characteristics and instructional approaches, among other contextual variables. As was the case in 2014, the 2018 NAEP Geography Assessment will report student achievement at the eighth-grade level (pre-2014 assessments included fourth and twelfth grade students). One of the novel elements of the 2018 geography assessment was the inclusion of digitally administered items that test fundamental GIS knowledge and skills.

AAG will participate in a virtual event, sponsored by the NAGB, to share and discuss the 2018 findings on April 23 from 1:30 – 3:00 pm EDT. Pre-register for the event here. NAGB staff will present highlights of the geography, U.S. history, and civics assessments. Additional speakers will present an overview of current initiatives aimed at enhancing and improving learning outcomes in those subject areas. Dr. Michael Solem (Professor of Geography, Texas State University and AAG Senior Advisor for Geography Education) will present geography-related strategies and resources at the event.

NOTE: In anticipation of the 2018 NAEP Geography Report Card, the AAG will host a virtual panel session, “Using NAEP Geography Datasets to Improve Geography Education,” on Wednesday, April 8 from 1:45 PM – 3:00 pm MDT (this is the original session date and time scheduled for the cancelled in-person AAG Annual Meeting). The discussion will focus on the importance of the NAEP Geography Assessment as a source of data on geographic literacy, the opportunities NAEP affords for conducting research on geographic learning, and the implications of NAEP findings for strategic planning, K-12 curriculum development, and achieving greater diversity and inclusion at all levels of the discipline and workforce. Panelists will also discuss the potential of reinstating geography to the NAEP assessment schedule in the coming years. To register for this session, see this link.

Later in 2020, AAG will collaborate with other organizations, including the National Council for the Social Studies, to pursue the expansion of the use of NAEP data and research findings for strengthening educational practice and policy. Additionally, the AAG will contribute to a NAEP webinar that highlighting a study by the National Center for Research in Geography Education (NCRGE) involving the use of raw, restricted-use NAEP geography datasets to model variability in student achievement. Research of this nature offers a chance to reach a deeper understanding of the student, household, and school-level factors that appear to be associated with achievement gaps across demographic and socioeconomic fault lines. Information about these collaborations and events will be shared in future issues of AAG News.