Skip Navigation

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. The main NAEP science assessment data are reported on a scale of 0 to 300.

In 2015, the average 4th-grade science score (154) was higher than the score in 2009 (150). The average 8th-grade science score in 2015 (154) was higher than the scores in both 2009 (150) and 2011 (152). The average 12th-grade science score in 2015 (150) was not measurably different from the score in 2009. In addition, the 5-point gender gap between male and female 12th-graders in 2015 was not measurably different from the gap in 2009. While the average science scores for White 4th- and 8th-grade students remained higher than those of their Black and Hispanic peers in 2015, racial/ethnic achievement gaps in 2015 were smaller than in 2009. At grade 4, the White-Black achievement gap was 36 points in 2009 and 33 points in 2015, and the White-Hispanic achievement gap was 32 points in 2009 and 27 points in 2015. While the average science scores for White 12th-grade students remained higher than those of their Black and Hispanic peers in 2015, these racial/ethnic achievement gaps did not measurably change between 2009 and 2015.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Digest of Education Statistics, 2016 (NCES 2017-094), Chapter 2.

Average science scale scores, by grade and race/ethnicity: 2009, 2011 and 2015
Selected characteristic Grade 4 Grade 8 Grade 12
2009 2011 2015 2009 2011 2015 2009 2011 2015
All students 150 154 150 152 154 150 150
Sex
Male 151 154 152 154 155 153 153
Female 149 154 148 149 152 147 148
Race/ethnicity
White 163 166 162 163 166 159 160
Black 127 133 126 129 132 125 125
Hispanic 131 139 132 137 140 134 136
Asian/Pacific Islander 160 167 160 159 164 164 166
Asian 169 161 166 167
Pacific Islander 143 139 138
American Indian/Alaska Native 135 139 137 141 139 144 135
Two or more races1 154 158 151 156 159 151 156

—Not applicable.
‡Reporting standards not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate).
1Prior to 2011, students in the "Two or more races" category were categorized as "Unclassified."
NOTE: Scale ranges from 0 to 300 for all three grades, but scores cannot be compared across grades. For example, the average score of 166 for White 4th-graders in 2015 does not denote higher performance than the score of 160 for White 12th-graders. In 2011, only 8th-grade students were assessed in science. Includes students tested with accommodations (7 to 14 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 (1 to 3 percent of all students). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The Digest of Education Statistics, 2016 (NCES 2017-094), Table 223.10.

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)