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The Nation's Report Card: Science 2005

May 2006

Authors: Wendy S. Grigg, Mary A. Lauko, and Debra M. Brockway

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Executive Summary

Five States Take the Lead in Science Score Gains
Minority Students Are Making Gains at Grades 4 and 8
Score Gaps Narrowed Between Younger White, Black, and Hispanic Students

Compared to middle and high school students, younger students are making the most progress in science. In 2005, a representative sample of more than 300,000 students in grades 4, 8, and 12 was assessed in science. This report presents national results for all three grades, and state results for grades 4 and 8. The 2005 results are compared to those from 1996 and 2000. Sample questions are presented to illustrate the types of skills and knowledge that were assessed at each grade.

Image of a school-age boy holding up a test tube and an accompanying set of line graphs showing the average science scores for 1996, 2000, and 2005, respectively: for grade 4 scores were 147*, 147*, and 151; for grade 8 scores were 149, 149, and 149; and for grade 12 scores were 150*, 146, and 147.

* Significantly different from 2005.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1996, 2000, and 2005 Science Assessments.

At grade 4, the average science score was higher in 2005 than in earlier years. The percentage of students performing at or above the Basic achievement level increased from 63 percent in 1996 and 2000 to 68 percent in 2005. An example of the knowledge associated with the Basic level is identifying two organs in the human body that work together to supply oxygen. Twenty-nine percent performed at or above the Proficient level. Relating the amount of time a candle burns to the amount of air available is an example of the knowledge and skills at the Proficient level.

At grade 8, there was no overall improvement. In 2005, 59 percent of students scored at or above the Basic level. An example of the knowledge and skills at the Basic level is being able to compare changes in heart rate before, during, and after exercise. Twenty-nine percent performed at or above the Proficient level. Identifying the energy conversions that occur in an electric fan is an example of the knowledge and skills at the Proficient level.

At grade 12, the average score declined since 1996. In 2005, 54 percent of students scored at or above the Basic level. Knowing the function of a neuron is an example of knowledge at the Basic level. Eighteen percent performed at or above the Proficient level. Identifying the source of heat energy released in a combustion reaction is an example of knowledge at the Proficient level.

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Five states take the lead in science score gains

Most states showed no improvement at grades 4 and 8. Five of the 37 participating states, however, did improve between 2000 and 2005—and did so at both grades. Those states were California, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia. At grade 4, Virginia was also among the top seven jurisdictions in 2005.A United States of America map showing five states, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia, that showed improvement in both grades in the NAEP 2005 science assessment.

Since 2000…

  • 9 states improved at grade 4
  • 11 states improved and 4 declined
    at grade 8

Differential patterns were found when results
were examined by science content area. For example, only three of the nine states that showed overall gains at grade 4, also showed gains in each of the three fields of science.

1Department of Defense Education Activitiy.

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Minority Students Are Making Gains at Grades 4 and 8

Minority students in grades 4 and 8 are making progress. At grade 4, average scores increased by
7 points for Black students, and by 11 points for Hispanic students, since 2000. White and Asian/Pacific Islander fourth-graders also improved since 1996, as did Hispanic and Black students. At grade 8, Black students were the only racial/ethnic group to make gains since 1996, and no racial/ethnic group showed improvement since 2000.

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Score Gaps Narrowed Between Younger White, Black, and Hispanic Students

Due largely to gains made by minority students, the score gaps between fourth-grade White students and their Black and Hispanic peers were smaller in 2005 than in 2000. The gap between White and Black students narrowed by 4 points since 2000, while the gap between White and Hispanic students narrowed by 8 points. The gap between White and Black twelfth-graders, however, widened during the same time period.

  4th Grade
Across
the board improvements
8th Grade
Scores
remain
flat
12th Grade
Scores steady
from 2000, but
lower than in 1996
Since
1996
Since
2000
Since
1996
Since
2000
Since
1996
Since
2000
Overall
Higher/Increase
Higher/Increase
No significant difference
No significant difference
Lower/Decrease
No significant difference
White
Higher/Increase
Higher/Increase
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
Black
Higher/Increase
Higher/Increase
Higher/Increase
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
Hispanic
Higher/Increase
Higher/Increase
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
Gaps
White-Black
Lower/Decrease
Lower/Decrease
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
Higher/Increase
White-Hispanic
No significant difference
Lower/Decrease
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference
No significant difference

Higher/Increase Indicates the score was higher or the gap increased in 2005
Lower/Decrease Indicates the score was lower or the gap decreased in 2005
No significant difference Indicates there was no significant change in the score or the gap in 2005

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

NCES 2006-466 Ordering information

Suggested Citation
Grigg, W.S., Lauko, M.A., and Brockway, D.M. (2006). The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2005
(NCES 2006–466). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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Last updated 12 May 2006 (FW)

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