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H.R. 885 (112th): Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act

The text of the bill below is as of Mar 2, 2011 (Introduced). The bill was not enacted into law.



1st Session

H. R. 885


March 2, 2011

(for himself, Mr. Petri, and Mr. Walz of Minnesota) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce


To improve and expand geographic literacy among kindergarten through grade 12 students in the United States by improving professional development programs for kindergarten through grade 12 teachers offered through institutions of higher education.


Short title

This Act may be cited as the Teaching Geography is Fundamental Act.


Geography education

Title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1021 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:


Geography education



Congress makes the following findings:


Geographic literacy is essential to a well-prepared citizenry in the 21st century because geographic factors assume greater importance as the world’s economies, societies, and political structures grow more global in scale.


In a recent National Geographic–Roper 9-country survey of geographic literacy among young adults aged 18 through 24, Americans ranked second to last. Only 13 percent of young adults ages 18 through 24 in the United States were able to correctly identify Iraq on a map of Asia and the Middle East.


The economic stature and competitiveness of the United States requires increasingly sophisticated levels of geographic knowledge and mastery of geographic tools.


The Department of Labor data identifies geotechnology as one of the 3 fastest growing employment fields serving industries such as insurance, banking, real estate, forestry, and agriculture as well as Federal, State, and local Governments.


The National Academy of Sciences urged creation of a national program to improve the geographic competence of the United States general population and the school age population.


Geography is defined as a core academic subject under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.


A recent National Geographic Society survey found that all 50 States and the District of Columbia recognize geography in their curricula or content standards, and an increasing number require geography for graduation and include geography in mandated statewide assessments.


Seven of 10 educators responding to a National Geographic survey felt their professional development opportunities in geography were inadequate and half believed their schools had inadequate basic materials for teaching geography.


The National Geographic Society has spent over 15 years pioneering an extraordinarily effective national program for improving the teaching of geography by engaging university faculty geographers and highly trained teachers in State Geographic Alliances dedicated to providing high quality professional development opportunities for kindergarten through grade 12 teachers.


More than 60 colleges and universities in all 50 States have received grants from the National Geographic Society to support State Geographic Alliances and their professional development programs. Alliance-trained kindergarten through grade 12 teachers and their higher education partners conduct workshops, develop localized teaching materials, and facilitate communication among thousands of teachers whose responsibilities include teaching of geography in various formats and grade levels.


A study by Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning that assessed student academic achievement in geography on the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that students taught by Alliance-trained teachers outperformed other students by almost 10 percent.


Purposes and objectives



The purpose of this part is to promote geographic literacy and improved understanding of global cultures among kindergarten through grade 12 students by expanding programs that employ the geographic knowledge and expertise of faculty members in institutions of higher education for the benefit of kindergarten through grade 12 teachers and to otherwise advance geographic literacy.



The objectives of this part are the following:


To increase students knowledge of, and achievement in, standards-based geography to enable the students to become better informed and more productive citizens.


To increase the number of highly qualified teachers of United States and world geography and to enable the teachers to improve student mastery of geographic principles and practical applications of those principles.


To encourage geographic education research, to develop and disseminate effective instructional materials, and to promote replication of best practices and exemplary programs that foster geographic literacy.


To assist States in measuring the impact of education in geography.


To leverage and expand private and public support for geography education partnerships at national, State, and local levels.


Grant program authorized

The Secretary is authorized to award a grant to a national nonprofit educational organization or a consortium of organizations (hereafter in this part referred to as the grantee) that has as its primary purpose the improvement of the quality of student understanding of geography through effective teaching of geography in the Nation’s classrooms.


Use of funds


Direct activities

The grantee shall use not more than 25 percent of the funds made available through the grant for a fiscal year—


to strengthen and expand the grantee’s relationships with institutions of higher education and with State educational agencies and local educational agencies and other public and private organizations with a commitment to geography education and the benefits of geography education;


to support and promote research-based training of teachers of geography and related disciplines in kindergarten through grade 12 as a means of broadening student knowledge of the world, including the dissemination of information on effective practices and research findings concerning the teaching of geography;


to support research on effective geography teaching practices and the development of assessment instruments and strategies to document student understanding of geography;


to convene national conferences on geography education to assess the current state of geographic literacy and to identify strategies for improvement; and


to develop and disseminate appropriate research-based materials to foster geographic literacy.




In general

The grantee shall use not more than 75 percent of the funds made available through the grant for a fiscal year to award subgrants to eligible recipients.


Eligible recipient defined

In this part the term eligible recipient means an institution of higher education associated with—


a State geographic alliance;


a nonprofit educational organization;


a State educational agency or local educational agency; or


a partnership between or among an alliance, organization, or agency described in subparagraph (A), (B) or (C).


Subgrant uses of funds

Eligible recipients shall use the subgrant funds for 1 or more of the following purposes:


Conducting teacher training programs that use effective and research-based approaches to the teaching of geography at the kindergarten through grade 12 level.


Applying Geographic Information System (GIS) or other geographic technological tools to the teaching of geography.


Applying Internet and other distance learning technology to the teaching of geography or to the continuing education of teachers.


Promoting rigorous academic standards and assessment techniques to guide and measure student performance in geography.


Promoting research in geography education, emphasizing research that leads to improving student achievement.


Carrying out local, field-based activities for teachers and students to improve their knowledge of the concepts and tools of geography while enhancing understanding of their home region.


Promoting comparative studies of world cultures, economies, and environments.


Encouraging replication of best practices and model programs to promote geographic literacy.


Developing and disseminating effective, research-based geography learning materials.


Convening State-based conferences to assess the state of geographic literacy and to identify strategies for improvement.




Grantee applications

To be eligible to receive a grant under this part, a grantee shall submit to the Secretary an application at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by such information as the Secretary may require.


Eligible recipient applications



To be eligible to receive a subgrant under this part, an eligible recipient shall submit an application to a grantee at such time, in such manner and accompanied by such information as the grantee may require.




In general

A grantee shall invite individuals described in subparagraph (B) to review all applications from eligible recipients for a subgrant under this section and to make recommendations to the grantee regarding the approval of the applications.



The individuals referred to in subparagraph (A) are the following:


Leaders in the field of geography education.


Such other individuals as the grantee may determine are necessary or desirable.




Administrative costs

A grantee receiving a grant under this part for a fiscal year, and each eligible recipient receiving a subgrant under this part for a fiscal year, may use not more than 15 percent of the funds made available through the grant or subgrant, respectively, for administrative costs.


Matching requirements


In general

In order to be eligible to receive a subgrant under this part an eligible recipient shall agree in the application submitted under section 275(b) to provide matching funds towards the costs of the activities assisted under the subgrant.



An eligible recipient shall provide matching funds in an amount equal to 20 percent of the subgrant funds received under this part for the second and each succeeding fiscal year for which subgrant payments are made.


Source of matching funds

Matching funds may be provided in cash or in kind, fairly evaluated, including facilities, staffing salaries, and educational materials.


Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this part $15,000,000 for fiscal year 2012 and each of the 4 succeeding fiscal years.