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Reauthorization of ESEA (No Child Left Behind) Heating Up

Take some time to familiarize yourself with this issue and consider contacting your elected officials. February 2nd is the deadline for senators to suggest comments to the draft. Read the messages below to find out more.

From AAG:

Dear AAG Members:

A draft reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is currently known as No Child Left Behind, has been released by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the new Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  By taking this step so early in the newly-convened 114th Congress, Alexander is signaling that he has serious interest in passing a bill in the first half of 2015.  The ESEA – the nation’s primary K-12 law – has not been reauthorized since early 2002.

As many AAG members are aware, the Association has been working for many years to ensure that the next enacted ESEA should include a specific funding authorization for K-12 geography education.  Geography is specified as one of nine core academic subjects in the existing law but is the only one that does not have a dedicated funding stream.    

In 2010, we began circulating the AAG Resolution Supporting K-12 Geography Education, which calls for funding of K-12 geography in the ESEA and urges the Obama Administration to include geography and geospatial education in its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) proposals.  The Resolution has been endorsed by four former U.S. Secretaries of State; 20 incumbent state Governors; 25 Fortune 500 companies; and many other prominent individuals and organizations (see:

This large coalition of supporters of geography education that we have assembled has helped us make a forceful case to federal policy makers.  As an example, please see the letter we have just sent to Senator Alexander on the reauthorization:      

The Senate HELP Committee has held two hearings so far in 2015 related to the ESEA:  one on “Testing and Accountability” and the other on “Supporting Teachers and School Leaders.” 

Alexander’s draft bill – which has yet to be formally introduced – does not include a listing of core academic subjects and does not specifically mention geography at all.  The Chairman has indicated that he would like to pass a reauthorization bill through his panel by the end of February, but if he does so without bipartisan support, he may find it difficult to win needed Democratic votes (to avoid a filibuster) when the bill reaches the Senate floor.

We will keep you apprised of developments on this important legislation.    

Thank you,

Douglas Richardson and John Wertman


Dear NCGE Members:

As you may be aware, the ESEA re-authorization is moving forward.  NCGE is concerned that geography is not included in the first draft of the bill.  Therefore, we are asking the NCGE community to reach out to their Senators immediately.

Senator Lamar Alexander (TN-R) has invited comments by February 2, 2015 on his ESEA re-authorization draft. He has said he plans to mark up the bill in committee before Valentine’s Day. All United States Senators have an opportunity to submit their requests by February 2, 2015.

Share this Alert — After having sent your message to your Senators, please share this critical Action Alert with your friends, family etc. For your distribution lists we have created a “cut and paste” message below:

The Senate needs to hear from you as soon as possible. Please write your two US Senators – before February 2 and ask them contact Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to urge the inclusion of the Programs of National Significance language included in the sample text provided below.

To find your member of Congress and email them go to:

Just a reminder to:

  • Use your own words, craft your own unique message using the ‘sample communication’ provided.
  • Add examples of problems you have encountered in providing geography education.
  • Highlight exemplary geography education practices that are replicable elsewhere.
  • Be respectful and to the point.
  • Please use the following in the subject line: URGENT-ESEA Request


Sample Text for Email:

Subject – Urgent ESEA Request


I am writing to you today as a constituent who cares deeply about   the vitality of our nation’s economy and democracy to ask for your assistance in providing competitive grants to support innovative, engaging teaching of the social studies – including civics, geography, economics and history – in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As the Senate considers reauthorization of ESEA, please ask Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray to include the following language:

Grants shall be made to support developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating for voluntary school use innovative, research-based approaches to civics, geography, economics and history, which may include hands-on engagement activities, for low-income elementary school and secondary school students, that demonstrate innovation, scalability, accountability, and a focus on undeserved populations.”

I have firsthand knowledge of the critical role that a quality social studies education can play in preparing students for college, careers and citizenship. I feel especially strong about the necessity of geographic education in our ever-interconnected world.  In our modern world, it seems counterintuitive for such a crucial discipline that prepares every student for the important, lifelong role of citizen and inhabitant of this Earth to not be recognized in the legislation. If our great nation is to continue as a strong democracy it will need students and citizens that are globally competent.

Unfortunately, we are falling well short of this objective.  As evidenced in the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress report in geography, we must address the needs of our students to develop knowledge and skills in geography. Nationally, only 20% of 12th graders performed at or above the proficient level on the 2010 geography assessment. Beyond assessment figures, the important consequences of geographic literacy relates to the personal, professional, and civic decisions that students must make on a daily basis. Geographic competencies are used everyday in support of national security, our nation’s economic growth and our collective future.

Too often, teachers of social studies do not receive the professional development and access to innovative curricula that they need to engage students in this important area of study.  In the area of geography, no national funds have ever been allocated so we as a national have fallen behind. Our nation’s economy, security, well being and future depend on the skills found in teaching geographic competencies. Understanding the interconnections of human and physical systems is critical to planning for our nations future.

Competitive grants to non-profits to make demonstrated effective practices available to schools and teachers through the Programs of National Significance would enable non-profits with experience in deploying researched-based, innovative approaches to learning in the social studies disciplines, to disseminate them nationwide, and train teachers for more effective instruction.  Schools and school districts would then have a menu of validated approaches from which to select to best meet the needs of their students in all of the areas of social studies.

We know what works in education.  Research has demonstrated how to engage students in learning the social studies, especially geography.  It is an essential component in teaching them the analytic skills to which they can apply their knowledge and skills to present-day challenges in order to improve our world and our lives.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent concern.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.




We appreciate your continued support for Geography Education and the National Council for Geographic Education.

Zachary R. Dulli & Jacqueline L. Waite, Co-Chief Executive Officers
National Council For Geographic Education