NC Students Improve Science Achievement, According to NAEP


North Carolina fourth and eighth grade students showed improvement in science achievement in 2015, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results released today. Fourth graders scored on par with the nation, and eighth graders scored lower than their national counterparts.

North Carolina fourth and eighth graders were tested in science in 2015 as part of the ongoing review of science achievement in the states and nation. The NAEP science assessment was first administered in 2009.

In 2015, the average score of fourth grade students in North Carolina was 154, up from 148 in 2009. This was not significantly different from the average score of 153 for public school students in the nation.

Thirty-six percent of North Carolina fourth grade students scored at the Proficient level or above, up from 30 percent in 2009. More students also scored at the Basic level (76 percent) when compared with 69 percent in 2009.

Eighth graders also improved their performance between 2009 and 2015. The average score for eighth graders in North Carolina was 150, an increase over the 2009 average score of 144. North Carolina’s eighth graders scored lower than the national average score of 153.

Thirty-one percent of North Carolina eighth grade students scored at or above the Proficient level, also an improvement over the 2009 figure of 24 percent. The percentage of students scoring at or above the Basic level increased as well from 56 percent in 2009 to 64 percent in 2015.

“Congratulations to our elementary and middle schools’ teachers for continuing to focus on science achievement,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson. “Science is a key component to a well-rounded education in today’s economy and society. I expect to see North Carolina’s science achievement continue to increase in the coming years.”

NAEP scores showed that male and female students scored similarly at both fourth and eighth grade. Gaps among Black, Hispanic, White, and Economically Disadvantaged student groups continue to persist although there were small improvements over time.

In addition to average scores, NAEP reports on the percentage of students performing at various achievement levels (Basic, Proficient and Advanced) set by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). Proficient on the NAEP scale represents competency over challenging subject matter.

Results are available for the 46 states and the Department of Defense school system that volunteered to participate at grades 4 and 8 (no state-level data is available at grade 12). Compared to 2009, 18 states saw score increases, and one state declined, at grade 4. At grade 8, 24 states saw score increases while no states had score declines since 2009. Fifteen states/jurisdictions experienced significant score gains at both grades 4 and 8 compared to 2009.

NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what students in the United States know and can do in various subject areas. It is known as the “gold standard” of large-scale student assessments. Between January and March 2015, the NAEP science assessment was given to approximately 115,400 fourth-graders, 110,900 eighth-graders. In North Carolina, 2,500 fourth graders and 2,400 eighth graders were tested. Because a sampling of students is tested, there are no local results to report.

The science assessment is comprised of three content areas: physical science, Earth and space sciences, and life science. The NAEP scale for science scores range from 0-300. You can find more information about what students can do at each achievement level by grade on the science assessment online.

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