DataBank Indicator

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The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science was updated in 2009, to keep pace with new developments in research and curriculum.  In all three grades where the test was given (fourth, eighth, and twelfth), fewer than half of students scored at or above the Proficient level.

Importance

Students who excel in the sciences, including earth and space science, natural science, life science, and physical science, may go on to become scientists, inventors, engineers, doctors and other highly skilled professionals.  A solid foundation in science in elementary and secondary school can help prepare students for these fields, in which qualified workers are in great demand. [1],[2]

High levels of students’ achievement in science are crucial for the advancement of science, technology, and medicine.[3]  Through a greater understanding of the earth and its surroundings, students can learn how to better protect the environment.   The health and security of people throughout the world are dependent in part upon scientific and technological knowledge;[4] currently prominent issues for which such knowledge is essential include genetic mapping, alternative fuels, and bioterrorism.

Trends

Between 1996 and 2005, scores for older students declined, and scores for younger students increased.  The 2009 administration of the assessment established a new baseline for this indicator.  Changes made in the test, to reflect updates in science concepts and curriculum, mean that 2009 results cannot be compared with those of previous years.  In 2011, science tests were administered to eighth-graders only, but scores show progress in that grade.  In 2011, the average score was 152, compared with 150 in 2009. (Appendix 1, Appendix 2, and Appendix 3)

Note: Reported trends refer only to data where testing accommodations for students with disabilities and English language learners were permitted.

Differences by Percentile

10_fig1Test results show a that achievement varies widely among students at each grade level, with students performing at the 90th percentile scoring around 90 points higher than those performing at the 10th percentile.  Fourth-grade students at the 90th percentile scored 88 points higher than those at the 10th percentile; eighth-grade students at the 90th percentile scored 89 points higher than those at the 10th percentile; and twelfth-grade students at the 90th percentile scored 90 points higher than those at the 10th percentile. (Figure 1)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[5]

10_fig2White students had higher average science scale-scores than black and Hispanic students across all three grade levels in the 2009 assessment.  Between white and black students, the performance gap averaged 35 points, and, between white and Hispanic students, the gap averaged 29 points. (Figure 2) Among eighth-graders in 2011, the gap between black and white students was 34 points, one point less than in 2009, and the gap between Hispanic and white students was 26 points, three points less than in 2009. (Appendix 2)

Differences by Free/Reduced-Price School Lunch Program Eligibility

Low-income students, defined as those eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches, had significantly lower science scores than students who were not eligible. The pattern was consistent at all three grade levels in 2009.  Fourth-grade students who were eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches scored 18 points lower than those who were not eligible (145 versus 163, respectively); in eighth grade the gap was 31 points; and in twelfth grade it was 25 points. For eighth-graders, this gap stayed the same in 2011. (Appendix 1, Appendix 2, and Appendix 3)

Differences by Gender

Science scores among males were slightly higher than those for females in 2009. The gap between males and females was two points in the fourth grade, four points in the eighth grade, and six points in the twelfth grade. For eighth-graders, there was no change in the gap between 2009 and 2011. (Appendix 1, Appendix 2, and Appendix 3)

Differences by Parent Education Level

10_fig3Science scores are higher among students with more educated parents.  In 2011, for example, among eighth-grade students, those whose parents who did not finish high school had an average scale score of 132, compared with 140 for students whose parents were high school graduates, 153 for students whose parents had some education after high school, but no degree, and 162 for those whose parents graduated from college.  Gaps by parental education did not change between 2009 and 2011. (Figure 3)

 

State and Local Estimates

International Estimates

International assessments for fourth- and eighth-grade science are available from the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Twelfth-grade assessments from TIMSS are available also.

International comparisons of science literacy from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 15 year olds in 2009 are available in Highlights from PISA 2009: Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Reading, Mathematics, and Science Literacy in an International Context.

National Goals

The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in January 2002, requires states to set performance standards for several subjects.  Beginning in 2007, states will be required to measure students’ progress in science at least once each year during the following grade spans: 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. The legislation also created Math and Science partnerships to encourage all sectors of society to help improve achievement and created rewards for states that increase the number of students in advanced math and science classes and the number of students passing the Advanced Placement exam in these subjects.

More information is available here.   

Related Indicators

Definition

Science proficiency is measured in this indicator as average scale-scores for fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders on the Science National Assessment of Educational Progress.  The 2009 framework organizes science content into the broad areas of physical science, life science, and earth and space sciences.   In addition the assessment framework measures student understanding of how science knowledge is used.  More information is available here.

Information on how achievement levels are defined is available from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Data Sources

Data for 2011: U.S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. National Center for Education Statistics. NAEP Data Explorer.  Available at: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/.

Data for 2009: The Nation’s Report Card, 2009 Science.  National Center for Education Statistics.  National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Raw Data Source

National Assessment of Educational Progress Science Assessments

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/science/

 

Appendix 1: Average Scale Scores in Science, Grade 4, Selected Years, 1996-2009

1996 2000 1996 2000 2005 20091
No Accommodations Permitted² Accommodations Permitted²
Total 150 150 147 147 151 150
Gender
Male 151 153 148 149 153 151
Female 149 147 146 145 149 149
Race/Ethnicity3
White 159 160 158 159 162 163
Black 122 123 120 122 129 127
Hispanic 127 126 124 122 133 131
Asian/Pacific Islander 147 144 158 160
American Indian 147 129 135 138 135
School Lunch Eligibility
Eligible 133 130 129 127 135 145
Not Eligible 159 159 159 158 162 163
Info Not Available 161 161 151 160 160 132
Type of School
Public 148 148 145 145 149 149
School Location
Central City 143 142
Urban Fringe 154 154
Rural 154 155
Region
Northeast 154 154
Midwest 155 155
South 151 150
West 144 143
Percentile
10th 105 105 99 99 109 104
25th 130 129 125 125 130 128
50th 153 153 150 150 153 153
75th 173 174 172 172 173 175
90th 190 191 190 190 189 192
“-” Indicates no data available

1 The 2009 framework for this assessment replaced the one used in prior years. Results from 2009 cannot be compared with those from previous years. To establish a baseline, the overall average score for each grade was set at 150 on a 0-300 scale.

2 In 1996, 2000 and 2005, 2009 NAEP allowed testing accommodations for students with disabilities and for limited English proficient students. Accommodations may include extra time, one-on-one administration, use of magnifying equipment, translation of assessments, or the use of bilingual dictionaries and are determined by state and district policies. Data after 2005 for unaccomodated testing are not available.

3 Note that none of the race groups include Hispanics of those races.

Source: U.S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. National Center for Education Statistics. NAEP Data Explorer. Available at: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/.

 

Appendix 2: Average Scale Scores in Science, Grade 8, Selected Years, 1996-2011

1996 2000 1996 2000 2005 20091 20111
No Accommodations Permitted² Accommodations Permitted²
Total 150 151 149 149 149 150 152
Gender
Male 151 154 150 153 150 152 154
Female 149 147 148 146 147 148 149
Race/Ethnicity3
White 159 161 159 161 160 162 163
Black 120 121 121 121 124 126 129
Hispanic 129 126 128 127 129 132 137
Asian/Pacific Islander 150 152 151 153 156 160 159
American Indian 146 140 148 147 128 137 141
Parent’s Education
Less than high school 131 126 130 126 128 131 132
Graduated high school 140 138 140 137 138 139 140
Some education after high school 155 155 154 154 151 152 153
Graduated College 159 162 158 161 159 161 162
Unknown 134 130 129 129 130 130 133
School Lunch Eligibility
Eligible 133 128 129 127 130 133 137
Not Eligible 156 160 156 159 159 161 164
Info Not Available 156 156 157 155 160 164 164
Type of School
Public 148 148 148 148 147 149 151
Nonpublic 161 167 165 167 164 163
School Location
Central City 141 142 144
Urban Fringe 152 154 155
Rural 152 154 156
1996 2000 1996 2000 2005 20091 20111
Region
Northeast 153 154 153
Midwest 155 155 155
South 145 148 150
West 144 144 146
Percentile
10th 104 103 103 101 101 103 106
25th 128 128 127 126 126 128 131
50th 153 154 152 152 151 153 155
75th 174 177 174 175 174 175 176
90th 192 195 192 194 192 192 193
“-” Indicates no data available

1 The 2009 framework for this assessment replaced the one used in prior years. Results from 2009 and 2011 cannot be compared with those from previous years. To establish a baseline, the overall average score for each grade was set at 150 on a 0-300 scale.

2 In 1996, 2000 and 2005, 2009, and 2011 NAEP allowed testing accommodations for students with disabilities and for limited English proficient students. Accommodations may include extra time, one-on-one administration, use of magnifying equipment, translation of assessments, or the use of bilingual dictionaries and are determined by state and district policies. Data after 2005 for unaccomodated testing are not available.

3 Note that none of the race groups include Hispanics of those races.

Source: U.S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. National Center for Education Statistics. NAEP Data Explorer. Available at: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/.

 

Appendix 3: Average Scale Scores in Science, Grade 12, Selected Years, 1996-2009

1996 2000 1996 2000 2005 20091
No Accommodations Permitted² Accommodations Permitted²
Total 150 147 150 146 147 150
Gender
Male 152 148 154 148 149 153
Female 148 145 147 145 145 147
Race/Ethnicity3
White 158 153 159 153 156 159
Black 123 123 123 122 120 125
Hispanic 129 128 131 128 128 134
Asian/Pacific Islander 145 151 147 149 153 164
American Indian 147 144 151 139 144
Parent’s Education
Less than high school 123 126 125 125 125 131
Graduated high school 140 135 139 135 136 138
Some education after high school 151 146 151 146 148 147
Graduated College 160 157 160 156 157 161
Unknown 116 114 121 114 119 122
School Lunch Eligibility
Eligible 125 126 127 124 129 132
Not Eligible 154 150 154 149 152 157
Info Not Available 150 150 152 150 158 156
Type of School
Public 149 145 150 145 146 149
Nonpublic 155 160 156 160
School Location
Central City 142 146
Urban Fringe 150 154
Rural 148 150
1996 2000 1996 2000 2005 20091
Region
Northeast 149 155
Midwest 154 155
South 143 144
West 145 148
Percentile
10th 104 102 105 101 101 104
25th 128 125 128 124 125 126
50th 152 148 152 148 149 151
75th 174 171 174 170 171 174
90th 192 190 192 189 189 194
“-” Indicates no data available1

The 2009 framework for this assessment replaced the one used in prior years. Results from 2009 cannot be compared with those from previous years. To establish a baseline, the overall average score for each grade was set at 150 on a 0-300 scale.

2 In 1996, 2000 and 2005, 2009 NAEP allowed testing accommodations for students with disabilities and for limited English proficient students. Accommodations may include extra time, one-on-one administration, use of magnifying equipment, translation of assessments, or the use of bilingual dictionaries and are determined by state and district policies. Data after 2005 for unaccomodated testing are not available.

3 Note that none of the race groups include Hispanics of those races.

Source: U.S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. National Center for Education Statistics. NAEP Data Explorer. Available at: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/.

 

Endnotes


[1]National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st
Century. (2000). Before it’s too late. Report prepared for the U.S.
Department of Education. Washington, DC: Author. http://www.ed.gov/americacounts/glenn/report.pdf

[2]Currid, E. & Stolarick, K. (2010) The occupation-industry mismatch:
New trajectories for regional cluster analysis and economic development. Urban
Studies, 47(2), 337-362.

[3]National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st
Century. (2000). Op. cit.

[4]Nelson, G.D. (2001). Remarks on the release of the NAEP 2000
Science Assessment results. Press release. Washington, DC: American
Association for the Advancement of Science; National Commission on Mathematics
and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000.

[5]Note that none of the race groups include Hispanics of those races,
although Hispanics may be any race.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends. (2013). Science proficiency. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=science-proficiency

 

Last updated: February 2013