U.S. schoolchildren, noses in their smartphones, don't know the lay of the land.
Only half of fourth-graders correctly put the following in descending order of size: North America, the United States, California and Los Angeles, according to a federal test known as the "Nation's Report Card," the Education Department said Tuesday.
Less than one-third of elementary and high school students showed proficiency in geography, the Education Department said. Students aren't learning subjects such as geography and history as teachers spend more time on math and reading to accommodate standardized tests, said Roger Downs, a Penn State University geography professor.
As "classroom time becomes an even more precious and scarce commodity, geography, with subjects such as history and the arts, is losing out in the zero-sum game that results from high- stakes testing," Downs said in a statement released with the results.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has cited this narrowing of the curriculum in calling for changes before the start of the next school year to the No Child Left Behind law, which ties federal funding to standardized math and reading tests.
In the nationally representative sample of public and private schools, 7,000 fourth-graders, 9,500 eighth-graders and 10,000 12th-graders participated in last year's geography test. The periodic "report cards," officially called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, measure knowledge of math, reading, science and six other subjects.