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Geography

The following process was used to identify standards and benchmarks for geography:

Identification of Significant Reports

Six reports were identified as important documents representing current thinking on standards in geography: National Geography Standards (1994) from the Geography Education Standards Project; Item Specifications: 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress in Geography (1992) from the NAEP Geography Consensus Project; Guidelines for Geographic Education (1984) from the Joint Committee on Geographic Education; and K6 Geography: Themes, Key Ideas, and Learning Opportunities (1987) from the Geographic Education National. Implementation Project. In addition, two documents from International Baccalaureate, Geography (1996g) and Environmental Systems (1996f).

Selection of the Reference Document

The Geography Education Standards Project's National Geography Standards (1994) was selected as the central document. The project has broad-based representation and was brought together for the express purpose of composing standards for geography. The project also makes use of the other important documents in the field (for further details, see the geography discussion under History of the Standards).

Identification of Standards and Benchmarks

The Standards work shares several aspects with our model for standards development. First, the standards statements in the document are expressed at a level of generality that fits our model for articulated standards. In addition, beneath each standard are provided descriptions of the knowledge and skills students should acquire in geography and in a range of closely related subjects.

There are a number of areas, however, in which the document is not directly compatible with our approach. For example, under each standard, student knowledge and skill are couched in terms of activities or tasks rather than in statements of declarative or procedural knowledge. For the most part it was possible, from a close analysis of the task, to discern what the authors considered to be the essential geographic knowledge or skill. Each activity, then, was studied to determine the knowledge or skill that might be presumed from a successful completion of the task. This analysis allowed us to generate benchmarks that describe declarative, procedural, and contextual content knowledge.

Another area of divergence between our model and the reference document concerns the range and number of benchmark levels. The standards document specifies three benchmark levels: K4, 58, and 912. Our model recommends four, roughly corresponding to primary, upper elementary, middle, and high school. In this case, then, completion of our benchmark levels depended upon an analysis of supplementary materials that could provide us with further benchmark information, especially at the primary grades (discussed below).

Integration of Information from Other Documents

During the next stage of the process, the supplementary documents were reviewed, both to integrate information into the main document and to confirm our analysis of the reference document. That analysis, as described above, required us to deduce, from descriptions of tasks and activities, the knowledge and skills the authors believed the student should have. Item Specifications: 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress in Geography provided us with an independent means to check the accuracy of our analysis. This document provides detailed descriptions as to the basic, proficient, and advanced levels of achievement in geography. For example, "Eighth grade basic" means that students should be able to, among other things, "...solve fundamental locational questions using latitude and longitude; interpret simple map scales; identify continents, oceans, and selected countries and cities..."(p. 54).

Another document used to support benchmark statements was K6 Geography: Themes, Key Ideas, and Learning Opportunities. This guide for curriculum development also provided useful information for the elaboration of benchmarks at the primary level. This information was important because the reference document, as noted above, does not identify the knowledge and skills that might be especially suitable for the early (K2) grades. Additionally, Guidelines for Geographic Education, which provides an instructional framework for teaching and learning geography by structuring content around five themes (Location, Place, Human-Environmental Interaction, Movement, and Regions), was analyzed and cited wherever appropriate at the benchmark level. Since page citations are provided for both these documents wherever appropriate, users are afforded easy reference to supporting material.

Finally, citations were added, where appropriate, to the course materials of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which offers a Diploma Program for students in the final two years of secondary school and a Middle Years Program for students in the 11-16 age range. The programs, which are known for their intellectual rigor and high academic standards, are in place in 735 member schools in 92 countries.