NAEP — known as the Nation’s Report Card – released its 2011 science assessment for grade 8 this morning. I had a preview of the scores yesterday in a conference call. In January and March, 122,000 8th graders from all 50 states and Washington, DC, took the science NAEP.
(The administration of this test has been changed to align with the TIMSS, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, to facilitate international comparisons.)
On a sale of 0 to 300, the average 2011 scale was 152. In 2009, the average was 150. The students were tested in the areas of physical, earth/space and life sciences. The average score for students in Georgia in 2011 (151) was higher than their average score in 2009 (147).
NAEP has three levels, basic, proficient or advanced. (The cuts score for basic was 141, for proficient 170 and for advanced 215.)
Only 2 percent of 8th graders scored at the advanced level and seven out of 10 tested below proficient, adding to the chronic concern that the United States is still trailing in the race for a future where science and technology skills will be paramount.
“Science test scores are slightly up, and the achievement gap is narrowing, and that’s good news. Today’s results offer encouraging signs that our nation’s eight graders are improving in science education.And for the first time, all 50 states participated in the science assessment with no states showing a decline in science scores,” said US Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a statement.
“While the reasons for the improvement aren’t stated in the report, it’s clear that we should continue the administration’s mission for every child to have access to high-quality, rigorous science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses.There is much work ahead if our kids are going to be competitive in the global economy. While the percentage of students performing at or above the Basic and Proficient levels in science were higher in 2011 than in 2009, when the last assessment was done, there was no significant change in the percentage of students at the Advanced level. This tells me that we need to work harder and faster to build capacity in schools and in districts across the country. We have to do things differently, that’s why education reform is so critical,” he said.
In 2011, the score for eighth-graders overall rose from 150 to 152. Scores also rose for students at the 10th, 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles. At the 90th percentile, however, there was no significant increase
The 2011 scores reflect improved performance overall except among the students scoring at the highest levels. Those performing at or above basic rose from 63 percent to 65. Those performing at or above proficient rose from 30 to 32 percent. However, those performing at the advanced level remained at 2 percent.
While the achievement gap is narrowing, whites still outperformed other groups. White students scored on average 163; Asian students scored 161; Hispanic students scored 137; Black students scored 129.
The white/black score gap fell from 36 to 35 points. Scores increased since 2009 for both groups, but the increase for black students was large enough to narrow the gap. The white/Hispanic score gap also narrowed since 2009, dropping from 30 to 27 points. Again, the 5-point score increase for Hispanic students was large enough to narrow the gap despite an
increase in the average score for white students. There was no significant change in scores for Asian/Pacific Islander or American Indian/Alaska Native students.
There continues to be a gender gap with with male students outscoring females by 5 points. The average score for male eighth-graders in 2011 was 154 points, 5 points higher than the average score for female eighth-graders. This represents an increase for both groups given that in 2009 the average score for male students was 152, and 148 for female students.
There is also a persistent socioeconomic gap with students who receive free and reduced lunch scoring lower (133) than their peers who do not receive free/reduced lunch (161).
In looking at correlations, students who reported hands-on science activities in school and out of school had higher scores.
According to Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics: When NAEP assessments are administered, we ask the teachers of the students being assessed to fill out questionnaires that provide information on classroom practices. Among other things, we asked teachers about the frequency with which they have students perform hands-on projects in class. The more often students performed hands-on projects, the higher the average NAEP score. Two percent of students had teachers who said they never or hardly ever had students perform hands-on tasks, and these students had the lowest average score. Twenty-five percent had teachers who said they had students perform hands-on tasks once or twice a month, and 56 percent had teachers who said they had students perform hands-on tasks once or twice a week. Sixteen percent had teachers who said they had students perform hands-on tasks every day or almost every day.
Here are the Georgia stats from the NAEP report:
•In 2011, the average score of eighth-grade students in Georgia was 151.
•The average score for students in Georgia in 2011 (151) was higher than their average score in 2009 (147).
•In 2011, the score gap between students in Georgia at the 75th percentile and students at the 25th percentile was 47 points. This performance gap was not significantly different from that of 2009 (48 points).
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 30 percent in 2011. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2009 (27 percent).
• The percentage of students in Georgia who performed at or above the NAEP Basic level was 63 percent in 2011. This percentage was greater than that in 2009 (58 percent.)
•In 2011, Black students had an average score that was 33 points lower than White students. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 2009 (32 points).
•In 2011, Hispanic students had an average score that was 23 points lower than White students. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 2009 (24 points).
•In 2011, male students in Georgia had an average score that was not significantly different from female students.
•In 2011, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch, an indicator of low family income, had an average score that was 28 points lower than students who were not eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 2009 (28 points).
“This is an extremely encouraging report of our students’ progress in science education,” said state school Superintendent Dr. John Barge. “As we move away from No Child Left Behind and begin using the College and Career Ready Performance Index, I am confident we will continue to see science results increase, because science will have the same focus and accountability as every other content area. No matter what subgroup of students you look at, these results show us that more of our students are getting the science knowledge and skills necessary to meet the demands of the many science-related jobs in the labor market.”
“We know that economic development in the 21st century will be driven by advances in the critical STEM fields,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “These promising gains made by Georgia students demonstrate that we are on the right track towards ensuring that all students will be college and work ready.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog