Social studies: U.S. students fail at it, but Colorado has a plan to improve scores

American schoolchildren don't know Alaska from their elbow. That's the news today from the NAEP, dubbed "The Nation's Report Card:" Fewer than one-third of students tested proficient in geography in 2010. Education gurus blame a shrinking curriculum -- but that could change in Colorado.

In 2014, Colorado will add social studies to the list of subjects in which elementary- middle- and high-school students are tested on state tests. The tests, whose current incarnation is called the Colorado State Assessment Program, or CSAP, are still being developed. But officials say they'll include questions about geography -- which, in an age of high-stakes testing, could cause schools to put more emphasis on the subject.

And not a minute too soon. Consider this letter, sent by community college professor Aimee Pellet to the State Board of Education while it was debating whether to include social studies in the mix. Here's an excerpt:

Dear Colorado Board of Education,

Is social studies important? Is geography important? I, as a geography teacher and citizen of the world, think it is vitally important. However, I suppose it is ultimately a matter of opinion. What I can share with you, though, are some of the results from my current *college* geography course (World Regional Geography) of 21 students:

On a map test:

Someone labeled Georgia "Jersey" (They didn't even use the "New," so I am assuming it is a reference to the Jersey Shore?)

Someone labeled Wisconsin "Delaware"

Someone labeled Alaska "Germany"

Someone labeled the Rocky Mountains (yes, the ones we LIVE IN) "Alps"!!!!!!!

Someone labeled the Appalachians "Urals"

Someone put South Carolina ABOVE North Carolina!

The answer to Pellet's first question is "hells yes."

More from our Education archives: "North High: How many seniors graduated from school that used credit recovery courses?"

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