Thursday, January 27, 2011

National Test Shows Colorado Science Scores Slightly Higher Than Average

Colorado students in grades four and eight perform slightly higher than the national average on science assessments, according to results released today from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

In 2009 at the fourth-grade level, 39 percent of participating Colorado students scored proficient or above compared with 32 percent nationally. At the eighth-grade level, 36 percent of participating Colorado students scored proficient or above compared to 29 percent nationally. Colorado performed higher than 24 states in grade four and 22 states in grade eight.

The proficient level is defined by NAEP as representing “solid academic performance” which demonstrates “competency over challenging subject matter.”

“While we are pleased to be ahead of the national average, there is not much comfort in these numbers,” said CDE Deputy Commissioner Diana Sirko. “Until our goals of strong proficiency for all students in all subject areas are reached, we can only celebrate this as a beginning in our work to equip all students with the 21st century skills that are critical to the future.”

New Hampshire scored the highest with 47 percent of their grade four students scoring proficient or above. In the eighth-grade, Montana scored the highest with 43 percent of students scoring proficient and above.

NAEP, established in 1969, is the only federal nationally representative assessment of what young students know and can do in key subject areas. Commonly referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card,” it is used to provide a point of reference for comparisons between states and to provide an accurate and representative picture of student performance over time.

NAEP provides national and state results in eight subject areas, including mathematics, reading, writing and science. Results have been produced for the nation and participating states for more than 30 years.

The NAEP 2009 Science Assessment was administered to a representative sample of fourth and eighth-graders at the national level and at the state level. In addition, 12th-graders were assessed at the national level in all the participating states.

Forty-seven jurisdictions participated, including the Department of Defense Schools (domestic and overseas). Alaska, Vermont, Nebraska and Kansas did not participate. In addition, 17 urban districts voluntarily participated in the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA).

Nationally, about 151,500 students in 8,780 public schools in grade four and 146,300 students in 6,440 public schools in grade eight nationwide took the tests. In Colorado, approximately 2,700 students in 156 public schools in grade four participated. In grade eight, approximately 2,800 students in 124 Colorado public schools participated. Students across the nation participated in the same assessment for each grade and subject.

The 2009 NAEP science assessment is based on a new framework that was approved by the National Assessment Governing Board which oversees NAEP, This replaces the framework that has been used in NAEP since 1996 and will start a new trend.

The NAEP results are reported by three achievement levels; Basic, Proficient and Advanced. They are also reported by Average Scale Score which ranges from 0 to 300 for Science (compared to the 0 to 500 range for reading and mathematics). In addition, the scores are reported by three fields of science: earth science, life science and physical science.

Each student received two 25-minute science tests, in addition to general background questions and science-specific background questions. The test requires about an hour per student to administer.

Colorado fourth grade students received an average scale score of 155. Colorado outperformed 23 states and was not significantly different than 14 states. Eight states scored significantly higher than Colorado (Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine) and so did students attending schools run by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The average scale score for Colorado eighth grade students was 156.

Colorado eighth graders scored higher than 23 states and not significantly different than 15 other states. Students in seven states scored significantly higher than Colorado (Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire) and so did students attending schools run by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Eighth-grade students in Colorado fared better than the nation in all of the science areas: earth, life and physical. Colorado eighth-grade students scored 155 in both life science and earth science, significantly higher than the national score of 149 for both areas. In physical science eighth graders in Colorado scored 156 compared to the national public score of 149.

Ten states outperformed Colorado in earth science; seven states outperformed Colorado’s eighth-graders in life science and only Montana, New Hampshire and the U.S. Department of Defense schools scored higher than Colorado in physical science.

The President and Congress use NAEP results in setting education policy. States are neither rewarded nor sanctioned based on their results. The Nation’s Report Card is produced by the U.S. Department of Education and has generated more than 600 reports in its history.

For more information about the 2009 NAEP science results go to the initial release site: or the CDE Web site,

The 12th-grade 2009 NAEP science assessment results were also released today. The 12th-grade data do not include state-by-state results.

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