The News in Numbers: Stats on Student’s Proficiency in Science

According to a newly released study by the National Center for Education Statistics, “The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2009″:

  • 1/3 of fourth graders and 1/5 of high school seniors scored at or above the level the federal Department of Education calls proficient.
  • 1-2 students out of every 100 displayed the level of science mastery the department defines as advanced.
  • 72% of fourth-graders, 63% of eighth-graders, and 60% of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Basic level in science, showing partial mastery of knowledge and skills needed to be proficient in the subject.

The test was given to 308,000 fourth and eighth graders and 11,000 high school seniors from private and public schools in 46 states. The test, referred to as the National Assessment of Education Progress, measured knowledge and abilities in physical sciences, life science and earth and space sciences. Below are examples of how the government tested a student’s proficiency:

Performance at the Basic level

  • Explain the benefit of an adaptation for an organism (grade 4).
  • Relate oxygen level to atmospheric conditions at higher elevations (grade 8).
  • Solve a design problem related to the electric force between objects (grade 12).

Performance at the Proficient level

  • Recognize that gravitational force constantly affects an object (grade 4).
  • Relate characteristics of air masses to global regions (grade 8).
  • Evaluate two methods to help control an invasive species (grade 12).

Performance at the Advanced level

  • Design an investigation to compare types of bird food (grade 4).
  • Predict the Sun’s position in the sky (grade 8).
  • Recognize a nuclear fission reaction (grade 12).

Click here to see test scores broken down by gender, race and age, as well as state-to-state, regionally, and nationwide.
– Read the New York Times article, “Few Students Show Proficiency in Science, Test Shows”

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