The Nation???s Report Card Science 2009: National Assessment of Educational Progress at Grades 4, 8, and 12
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2009 science results are in, and the snapshot of science education in the United States is … unremittingly bleak. Across all states, 34 percent of fourth graders, 30 percent of eighth graders, and just 21 percent of twelfth graders are considered “proficient” in science. At the “advanced” level, that number dive-bombs to about one in one hundred. Scores varied dramatically across states: New Hampshire, home to the highest-performing fourth graders, boasts an average NAEP science score thirty points (or about two grades) higher than the Mississippi average score (out of 300 total points). In eighth grade, Montana and North Dakota beat out the lowest performer, again Mississippi—and again by thirty points. (State-specific results were not provided for twelfth graders). Data disaggregated by student groups varied as well, breaking across familiar lines—whites outperformed all other races, with Asians close behind (Asians, in fact, surpass whites on the twelfth grade assessment); males slightly edged out females; higher-income students performed better than their lower-income compatriots; and urban students trailed those in suburbs, towns, and rural locales. Most interestingly, though, are the twelfth-grade scores disaggregated by “coursetaking category.” Here, we see that twelfth graders with three years of high school science scored thirty-three points higher than those with only one year of secondary science instruction (the same discrepancy between the highest- and lowest-performing states). Typically, NAEP results are used to plot student-achievement trend lines across the years—from 1996–2005 the assessment kept the same framework, allowing for comparability. This assessment for the 2009 NAEP, however, is based on a new framework, making longitudinal comparison impossible. Regardless of where we were five years ago, though, it is clear where we are now: Our nation’s students can’t tell their fibulae from their tibiae—and in order to remedy that, they’re going to need to take more science courses.
National Center for Education Statistics, “The Nation’s Report Card Science 2009: National Assessment of Educational Progress at Grades 4, 8, and 12” (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, January 2011).
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