Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 6
IMPROVING SCORES AND CLOSING
GAPS AT THE MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL
Science Gains Seen at 4th, 8th Grades
But 12th graders showed no progress on latest NAEP
By Marva Hinton
Students in the 4th and 8th grades
are showing more mastery of science,
but high school seniors' scores on the
assessment known as "the nation's report card" stayed flat from 2009.
The results released this morning
from the 2015 National Assessment
of Education Progress also found that
while large gaps remain between black
and Hispanic students and their white
peers in science, those gaps are narrowing, as is the 8th grade gender gap.
The tests measure students' knowledge in the areas of physical science,
life science, and Earth and space science in grades 4, 8, and 12. States'
participation in the assessment is
voluntary. It's offered to public and
private school students as well as U.S.
Department of Defense school system
students. In 2015, more than 237,000
students from 46 states and Defense
Department schools took the exam.
The average scores for students in
both the 4th and 8th grades went up
4 points, to 154, compared with 2009.
That's on a scale of 1 to 300.
During a conference call with reporters, U.S. Secretary of Education John
B. King Jr. called the results encouraging.
"More students are prepared to become innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and inventors," said King.
"And more students are learning how
to become the problem solvers who can
tackle our most pressing challenges."
The executive director of the National Science Teachers Association,
David Evans, also called the higher
scores a sign of progress.
"For the younger students, I think
we're just beginning to come out of a
time when there has not been a lot of
emphasis on teaching science at the
younger grades," said Evans. "By and
large, only English/language arts and
mathematics have been tested in the
younger grades for quite a few years
now. That has really led to a loss in
the amount of time and effort that's
gone into teaching science for those
younger students. The fact that there's
a gain at all is something that I think
we should be encouraged by."
In contrast to the 4th and 8th graders' scores, the average scores for high
school seniors have remained flat
since 2009, at 150.
The 2015 NAEP findings come
as more states adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS,
which de-emphasize rote memorization of facts and terminology in favor
of scientific inquiry and hands-on
The NSTA helped write the standards, which have now been adopted
by more than one-third of states.
In light of the fact that the science
6 | EDUCATION WEEK | NOVEMBER 2, 2016 | www.edweek.org
standards have only been out for 3½
years, Evans said he's not surprised to
see that scores for 12th graders were
stagnant from 2009 to 2015.
"At the high school level, we have
a long way to go even in those states
where new standards have been adopted," said Evans.
Proficiency in Context
Despite the progress made among
the 4th and 8th graders, all three
groups remain well below the "proficient" level. Only 38 percent of 4th
graders and 34 percent of 8th graders
were proficient in science. The numbers were even worse for 12th graders,
with only 22 percent of them scoring
at or above that level. Their average
scores were 29 points below the proficiency benchmark for 12th graders.
But during a conference call with
reporters, Bill Bushaw, the executive
director of the National Assessment
Governing Board, which sets the
achievement levels, said it was important to keep the cutoff levels for determining proficiency in context.
"They are set at high levels, demanding levels even by the definition of 'proficient,' " said Bushaw. "We don't interpret this as being grade level. We don't
interpret this as being a pass rate. It's
interpreted as what students know
and can do and what our experts have
Gains in average scores for black and Hispanic students
helped shrink racial, ethnic achievement gaps
in 8th grade science.
SOURCE: The Nation's Report Card
shared with us should be considered
Gaps between African-American students and their white peers have been
narrowing among students in the 4th
and 8th grades, according to the latest
NAEP results. In 2009, white 4th graders scored 36 points higher than black
students on average. In 2015, that
span narrowed to 33 points. Among
8th graders, the divide between black
and white students has narrowed from
36 points in 2009 to 34 points in 2015.
There was not a significant reduction
in the gap at the 12th grade level.
The gap between Hispanic students
and white students is also decreasing.
White 4th graders scored 32 points
higher than Hispanic students on average in 2009. By 2015, that had narrowed to 27 points. For 8th graders,
the gap between white and Hispanic
student scores went from 30 points
in 2009 to 26 points in 2015. The gap
remained virtually unchanged at the
12th grade level.
"The fact that it's narrowing because minority students are gaining
is notable," said Peggy Carr, the acting
commissioner of the National Center
for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP. "Nobody should be
happy about where we are, but people
should be pleased that we're making
At the 4th grade level, there was
no significant difference between
the average scores of girls and boys.
For students in the 8th grade, boys
scored on average 3 points higher
than girls. That's down from a
5-point gap in 2011. There was not a
significant difference between 2009
and 2015 in the size of the gender
gap among 12th graders.
"The narrowing of the gender gap
that we're seeing is because girls are
making faster progress than boys,"
said Carr during a conference call
Students in a handful of states
made gains that are higher than
the national average of 4 points, but
none was higher than Tennessee's
whose students in the 4th grade
raised their scores by 8 points and
those in the 8th grade increased
their scores by 9 points.
Other states surpassing the national scores in the 4th grade were:
Arizona, where students scored 11
points higher than the national average; Georgia, 8 points higher; and
Department of Defense schools, 7
In the 8th grade, students in Utah
also had greater gains than the national average at 9 points, and Nevada
students saw a 7-point gain.
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
Gender gaps in science
remain steep at 12th grade.
SOURCE: The Nation's Report Card
The fact that
there's a gain at all
is something that
I think we should be
National Science Teachers
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 2, 2016
Education Week - November 2, 2016
Teaching Literature Outside Of English Class
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Citizenship Initiative Will Target State Legislatures
Science Gains Seen at 4th, 8th Grades
African-American Museum Gears Up School Offerings
Principals Work Nearly 60 Hours A Week, According to Study
Conservative Group Focusing On ESSA Expands Reach
Guidance, Hurdles for ESSA’s ‘Well-Rounded Education’ Grant
SNAPSHOT: Tracking the Common Core
News in Brief
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
IN CONVERSATION: Q&A With Joseph Gauld
Election Lesson Reverberates In N.C. District
Education’s Tenuous Toehold on 2016 Ballot
SAM WINEBURG AND SARAH McGREW: What Students Don’t Know About Fact-Checking
BY THE NUMBERS: What Do Budding Voters Think?
MICHAEL J. FEUER: Whither Evidence?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Election Lesson Reverberates In N.C. District
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 2
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 3
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Science Gains Seen at 4th, 8th Grades
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 7
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 8
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 9
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Principals Work Nearly 60 Hours A Week, According to Study
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 11
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 12
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 13
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 14
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Guidance, Hurdles for ESSA’s ‘Well-Rounded Education’ Grant
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - SNAPSHOT: Tracking the Common Core
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 17
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Education’s Tenuous Toehold on 2016 Ballot
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 19
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 20
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 21
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - SAM WINEBURG AND SARAH McGREW: What Students Don’t Know About Fact-Checking
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - BY THE NUMBERS: What Do Budding Voters Think?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 24
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 27
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - MICHAEL J. FEUER: Whither Evidence?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT1
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT2
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT3
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT4