Eighth graders in U.S. schools have made minor gains in national science testing, with Hispanic and black students narrowing the gap between them and their white and Asian peers, the federal government reported Thursday.
Science results of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the nation’s report card, were released on May 10, and they show that the average eighth-grader’s science score increased 2 points from 150 in 2009 to 152 in 2011.
What does that mean? Not hard to figure out: the top possible score was 300; the lowest was 0.
The results are based on a representative sampling of 122,000 students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In a typical state, 100 schools are selected in each of grades four, eight and twelve to represent the state’s demographic and geographic composition.
The NAEP tests in science happen every two years, but does not report individual scores for individual students or schools; instead it provides data regarding subject matter achievement for populations of students (8th graders) and groups within those populations(Hispanics, African-Americans, etc.)
From The New York Times:
“The gains are encouraging, but the racial and gender gaps show a cause for concern,” David P. Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, said in a statement. The board sets policy for the NAEP.
Perhaps Gerry Wheeler, the interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Assn., put it best. “I’m disappointed,” he told Education Week. “Two points is certainly nothing to cheer about. If these kids can’t do better in science, our nation is in trouble.”
Results By Demographic And By State
Hispanic students made the largest gain, to 137 from 132, while the average score for black students increased to 129 from 126. For whites, the average went to 163 from 162. Among Asians, the average dropped from 160 to 159, and for American Indians, it rose to 141 from 137, but in both cases the changes were not judged statistically significant because of smaller sample sizes.
Looking at results by state, for public schools only, lagging states made some of the biggest improvements. South Carolina had the biggest increase, 6 points, to 149; Mississippi, the lowest-scoring state, rose 5 points, to 137. The top-scoring state was North Dakota, at 164, followed by Vermont and Montana at 163. After Mississippi, the lowest averages were in Alabama and California, at 140.
Are You Smarter Than An Eighth Grader?
Now that you’ve read the results, try testing yourself using these sample questions:
From The Los Angeles Times:
Here’s the first one:
What atoms combine to make up a molecule of water?
A. 1 hydrogen, 1 oxygen
B. 1 hydrogen, 2 oxygen
C. 2 hydrogen, 1 oxygen
D. 2 hydrogen, 2 oxygen
The correct answer is C, and 54% of eighth-graders who took the NAEP science exam chose it correctly.
Water evaporates and falls back to Earth as rain or snow. What is the primary energy source that drives this cycle?
A. The wind
B. The sun
C. Air pressure
D. Ocean currents
The correct answer is B, and 53% of eighth-graders chose correctly.
How well did you do? And what do you think about these science scores?
Photo Credit: The Principia Flickr