Science Scores up In Grade Four, Stalled In Grades 8 And 12

AP, May 24, 2006

WASHINGTON—Elementary school children have made gains in science, based on the first national test in five years, but students in middle and high school have not escaped their rut.

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The 2005 science scores are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal test given periodically in a range of topics. It is considered the best measure of how students perform over time and of how one state stacks up against another.

In a step forward on a national priority, black and Hispanic students narrowed their achievement gap with white students in fourth grade. But that good news was limited.

Racial gaps did not shrink in eighth grade, and the gap between blacks and whites even widened in 12th grade.

Overall science scores mirrored a recent pattern in other subjects: Elementary school kids improve, middle school students do not and high school students also stagnate or slip.

“It’s perplexing,” said Darvin Winick, chairman of the independent National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the test. “Almost everybody is on the high school reform bandwagon now, and all this report should do is fuel that fire a little more.”

The 12th-grade scores have not changed since the science test was last given in 2000. But they have dropped over a longer, 10-year testing period, the only grade to see that slip.

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The states posting the highest number of children who could handle challenging science material include Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia.

Among states with the lowest percentages of children doing proficient work are Alabama, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada and Mississippi.

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