Skip Navigation
small NCES header image

Science

Question:
How are American students performing in science?

Response:
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has assessed the science abilities of students in grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools since 1996. As of 2009, however, NAEP science assessments are based on a new framework, so results from these assessments cannot be compared to results from earlier science assessments. Scores are based on a scale ranging from 0 to 300.

In 2009, White 4th-graders had a higher average science score (163) than did Black (127), Hispanic (131), Asian/Pacific Islander (160), and American Indian/Alaska Native (135) 4th-graders. The average science score was higher for male 4th-graders (151) than for female 4th-graders (149). In 2009, the pattern of differences in average science scores by students’ race/ethnicity at grade 8 was similar to the pattern at grade 4. The average science score also was higher for male 8th-graders (152) than for female 8th-graders (148). At grade 12, average scores for White (159) and Asian/Pacific Islander (164) students were higher than the scores for Black (125), Hispanic (134), and American Indian/Alaska Native (144) students. The average science score in 2009 for male 12th-graders (153) was higher than the score for female 12th-graders (147). In 2011, a science assessment was conducted at grade 8 only. The average 8th-grade science score increased from 150 in 2009 to 152 in 2011.

While there were no significant changes from 2009 to 2011 in the average scores for Asian/Pacific Islander or American Indian/Alaska Native 8th-graders, average scores increased 1 point for White 8th-graders, 3 points for Black 8th-graders, and 5 points for Hispanic 8th-graders. The average science score of White 8th-graders continued to be higher than the average scores of 8th-graders in all other racial/ethnic groups in 2011, but score gaps between White and Black 8th-graders and between White and Hispanic 8th-graders narrowed from 2009 to 2011. Average scores for both male and female 8th-graders were higher in 2011 than in 2009. In 2011, the average score was 5 points higher for male 8th-graders than for female 8th-graders, which was not significantly different from the 4-point gap in 2009.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015), Chapter 2.

Average science scale scores, by selected student characteristics: 2009 and 2011
Selected characteristic 4th-graders, 2009 8th-graders, 2009 8th-graders, 2011 12th-graders: 2009
Total, all students Male Female Total, all students Male Female Total, all students Male Female Total, all students Male Female
All students 150 151 149 150 152 148 152 154 149 150 153 147
Race/ethnicity
White 163 164 162 162 164 160 163 166 161 159 162 156
Black 127 126 128 126 125 126 129 130 128 125 127 123
Hispanic 131 132 130 132 134 130 137 140 134 134 138 130
Asian/Pacific Islander 160 159 160 160 162 158 159 161 157 164 161 166
American Indian/Alaska Native 135 135 135 137 141 133 141 143 139 144

‡ Reporting standards not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate).

NOTE: Scale ranges from 0 to 300 for all three grades, but scores cannot be compared across grades. For example, the average score of 163 for White 4th-graders does not denote higher performance than the score of 159 for White 12th-graders. In 2011, only 8th-grade students were assessed in science. Includes students tested with accommodations (7 to 11 percent of all students, depending on grade level and year); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (2 to 3 percent of all students). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015), Table 168.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)


Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education