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The Nation's Report Card: Science 2000

January 2003

Authors: Christine Y. O'Sullivan, Mary A. Lauko, Wendy S. Grigg, Jiahe Qian, and Jinming Zhang


Executive Summary

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the nation's only ongoing representative sample survey of student achievement in core subject areas. In 2000, NAEP conducted a national science assessment of fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students. State-level results were also collected at the fourth and eighth grades within participating states and jurisdictions.

Authorized by Congress and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the U.S. Department of Education, NAEP regularly reports to the public on the educational progress of students in grades 4, 8, and 12. This report presents the results of the NAEP 2000 science assessment for the nation and the states. Results in 2000 are compared to results from the 1996 NAEP science assessment. Students' performance on the assessment is described in terms of average scores on a 0–300 scale for each grade and in terms of the percentages of students attaining three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The achievement levels are performance standards adopted by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) as part of its statutory responsibilities and describe what students should know and be able to do. The Governing Board is an independent, bipartisan group created by Congress in 1988 to set policy for NAEP.

As provided by law, the Deputy Commissioner of Education Statistics, upon review of a congressionally mandated evaluation of NAEP, determined that the achievement levels are to be considered developmental and should be interpreted and used with caution. However, both the Deputy Commissioner and NAGB believe these performance standards are useful for understanding trends in student achievement. They have been widely used by national and state officials as a common yardstick of academic performance.

In addition to providing average scores and achievement-level performance at the national level and state level, this report presents results for subgroups of students defined by various background and contextual characteristics. This report also contains results for a second sample at both the national and state levels—one in which testing accommodations were provided to students with special needs (i.e., students with disabilities or limited English proficient students).

The results presented in this report are based on representative samples of students for the nation and for participating states and jurisdictions. In the national sample, approximately 47,000 students from 2,100 schools were assessed. In the state samples, approximately 180,000 students from 7,500 schools were assessed. The national sample included students attending both public and nonpublic schools, while the state samples included only students attending public schools.

A summary of overall results from the 2000 NAEP science assessment is presented on the following pages. Differences between results from 1996 and 2000 or between groups of students are discussed only if they have been determined to be statistically significant.


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Overall Science Results for the Nation, Regions, and States

Science Results for the Nation:

  • Between 1996 and 2000, there was no statistically significant difference observed in the average science scores of fourth- or eighth-grade students. The average score of students in grade 12, however, declined from 150 in 1996 to 147 in 2000.

  • In 2000, the percentage of students performing at or above Proficient—identified by NAGB as the level that all students should reach—was 29 percent at grade 4, 32 percent at grade 8, and 18 percent at grade 12. The percentage of eighth-graders at or above Proficient was higher in 2000 than in 1996. The percentage of twelfth-graders at or above Basic declined between 1996 and 2000.

  • The 90th percentile score at grade 8 was higher in 2000 than in 1996, indicating improvement for the highest-performing eighth-graders. At grade 12, the 50th percentile score declined between 1996 and 2000, indicating a decline in the performance of middle-performing twelfth-graders.

Science Results for the Regions:

  • In 2000, the average scores for fourth- and eighth-graders were higher in the Northeast and Central regions than in the Southeast and West. Among twelfth-graders, average scores were higher in the Northeast and Central regions than in the Southeast.

  • Grade 12 students attending schools in the Central region had a lower average score in 2000 than in 1996.

Science Results for the States and Other Jurisdictions:

In the NAEP 2000 state-by-state assessment, results were reported for 39 states and 5 other jurisdictions that participated at grade 4, and 38 states and 4 other jurisdictions at grade 8. Only public schools participated in the state-by-state assessment.

At grade 4:

  • The top six states in 2000 were Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, and Vermont. The average scores for these six states were higher than any other participating state but were not found to differ significantly from one another.

  • Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, and Vermont had percentages of fourth-graders at or above Proficient that were higher than the other participating states, but were not found to be significantly different from one another.

At grade 8:

  • The top 10 states and other jurisdictions in 2000 were Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Vermont, and the Department of Defense domestic and overseas schools. The state of Montana, however, had an average eighth-grade score that was higher than any other participating state or jurisdiction.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, eighth-graders' average scores increased in Missouri and at the Department of Defense domestic and overseas schools. (These results are based on multiple-comparison statistical significance testing procedures including all states or jurisdictions that participated in both years.)

  • Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, and Ohio all had percentages of eighth-graders at or above Proficient that were higher than the percentages in other participating states, but were not found to differ significantly from one another.

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National Science Results for Student Subgroups

In addition to overall results for the nation and for states and jurisdictions, NAEP reports on the performance of various subgroups of students. Observed differences between student subgroups in NAEP science performance most likely reflect a range of socioeconomic and educational factors not addressed in this report or by NAEP.

Gender

  • In 2000, males had higher average scores than females at grades 4 and 8. The apparent gender difference at grade 12 was not statistically significant.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, the average score for eighth-grade males increased, while the average score for twelfth-grade males decreased.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, the average score gap favoring males over females widened by three points at grade 4 and by five points at grade 8.

Race/Ethnicity

  • In 2000, the average scores of White students at all three grades were higher than those of their Black, Hispanic, or American Indian peers, and American Indian students scored higher on average than Black students.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, average scores decreased for eighth-grade American Indian students and for twelfth-grade White students.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, no significant difference was observed in the average score gap between White and Black students and between White and Hispanic students at any of the three grades.

Parents' Level of Education

  • Generally, students in grades 8 and 12 who reported higher levels of parental education had higher average scores in 2000 than did their peers who reported lower levels of parental education. (Information about parental education was not collected at the fourth grade.)

  • Between 1996 and 2000, average scores declined among twelfth-graders who reported that their parents' highest level of education was high school graduation and among those who reported that at least one parent had some education after high school.

Type of School

  • At all three grades in 2000, students attending nonpublic schools had higher average scores than their peers attending public schools.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, the average score for twelfth-grade public-school students decreased, while the average score for twelfth-grade nonpublic-school students increased.

Type of Location

  • In 2000, fourth- and eighth-grade students attending schools in central city locations had lower average scores than their counterparts attending schools in urban fringe/large town or rural/small town locations. At grade 12, there was no statistically significant relationship between school location and students? average scores. (Results by type of location are not available from 1996.)

Free/Reduced-Price School Lunch Eligibility

  • At all three grades in 2000, students eligible for the free/reduced-price school lunch program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had lower average scores than those who were not eligible. Free/reduced-price school lunches are intended for children at, near, or below the poverty line: eligibility is determined by the USDA's Income Eligibility guidelines.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, the average score of eighth-graders who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch decreased, while the average score of eighth-graders who were not eligible increased. Among twelfth-graders, the average score of students who were not eligible decreased between 1996 and 2000.

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Becoming a More Inclusive NAEP

A second set of results from the NAEP 2000 science assessment includes the performance of special-needs students who were provided with testing accommodations. A similar set of results is available from 1996 at the national level only, allowing for comparisons between 1996 and 2000 national results based on administration procedures that permitted accommodations.

Science Results for the Nation:

  • In 2000, the difference between "accommodations-permitted" and "accommodations-not-permitted" national average scores was not found to be statistically significant at grades 8 and 12. At grade 4, however, the "accommodations-permitted" average score was 2 points lower than the "accommodations-not-permitted" average score.1

  • Between 1996 and 2000, the national average score for twelfth-graders declined when accommodations were not permitted and when accommodations were permitted.

Science Results for the States and Other Jurisdictions:

  • In 2000, none of the apparent differences between "accommodations-permitted" and "accommodations-not-permitted" average scores were found to be statistically significant at either grade 4 or grade 8 for any of the participating states and jurisdictions. (These results are based on multiple-comparison statistical significance testing procedures including all states or jurisdictions that participated in 2000.)

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School Contexts for Learning Science

NAEP collects information about the contexts for student learning by administering questionnaires to assessed students, their teachers, and school administrators. Using the student as the unit of analysis, NAEP examines the relationship between selected contextual variables drawn from these questionnaires and students? average scores on the science assessment. In interpreting these data, readers are reminded that the relationship between contextual variables and student performance is not necessarily causal. There are many factors that may play a role in student performance on NAEP.

At grade 4:

Computer Availability and Use

  • In 2000, fourth-graders whose teachers reported that they used computers for science instruction scored higher, on average, than fourth-graders whose teachers reported that they did not.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, the percentage of fourth-graders whose teachers reported using computers for science instruction increased from 47 to 57 percent.

Coursework

  • In 2000, fourth-graders whose teachers reported spending a lot of time or some time on life science and Earth science had higher average scores than fourth-graders whose teachers reported spending only a little time on these domains.

  • In 2000, 31 percent of fourth-grade students were taught by teachers who reported spending a lot of time on life science and Earth science, and 22 percent were taught by teachers who reported spending a lot of time on physical science.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, the percentage of fourth-graders whose teachers reported spending a lot of time on Earth science increased from 19 to 31 percent.

At grade 8:

Computer Availability and Use

  • In 2000, eighth-graders whose science teachers reported having their students use computers for simulations and modeling or for data analysis and other applications had higher average scores than eighth-graders whose science teachers reported not having students use computers in this manner.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, the percentage of eighth-graders whose science teachers reported having their students use computers for data analysis and other applications or for word processing increased.

Coursework

  • In 2000, 45 and 47 percent of eighth-graders were taught by teachers who reported spending a lot of time on Earth science and physical science, respectively. Twenty-one percent of eighth-graders were taught by teachers who reported spending a lot of time on life science.

At grade 12:

Computer Use

  • In 2000, twelfth-graders who reported using computers to collect data or to analyze data in their science classes once a month or more had higher average scores than twelfth-graders who reported doing so less frequently.

  • In 2000, twelfth-graders who reported never downloading data and related information from the Internet for their science classes had lower average scores than twelfth-graders who reported doing so at least sometimes.

Coursework

  • Twelfth-graders who reported that they were currently taking a science course in 2000 scored higher, on average, than twelfth-graders who reported that they were not.

  • According to twelfth-graders? reports in 2000 about the types of science courses they had taken since eighth-grade, approximately 74 percent had taken Earth science, 92 percent had taken biology, 70 percent had taken chemistry, and 36 percent had taken physics.

  • Twelfth-grade students who reported in 2000 that they had taken or were currently enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) biology, chemistry, or physics had higher average scores than twelfth-grade students who said they had not taken and were not enrolled in these AP courses.

1. The effects of offering accommodations are examined in greater detail in two forthcoming reports:

Lutkus, A. D., & Mazzeo, J. Including special-needs students in the NAEP 1998 reading assessment: Part I, comparison of overall results with and without accommodations. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (forthcoming).

Lutkus, A. D. Including special-needs students in the NAEP 1998 reading assessment: Part II, results for students with disabilities and limited English proficient students. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (forthcoming).


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Note: The full set of results in an interactive database is available
on the NAEP web site, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard




Download sections of the report (or the complete report) in a PDF file for viewing and printing:

NCES 2003-453 Ordering information

Suggested Citation
U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences. National Center for Education Statistics. The Nation's Report Card: Science 2000, NCES 2003–453, by C. Y. O'Sullivan, M. A. Lauko, W. S. Grigg, J. Qian, and J. Zhang. Washington, DC: 2002.

Last updated 29 March 2006 (HM)

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