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Indicator 17: Science Scores by Computer Use and Internet Access at Home

In 2015, the average NAEP science scale score was higher for 8th-grade students who used a computer at home (156) than for those who did not use a computer at home (136). Similarly, the average science scale score was higher for 8th-grade students who had access to the Internet at home (156) than for those who did not have access to the Internet at home (135).

Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science administration, this indicator describes associations between students' computer use and internet access at home and their science assessment scores. Achievement gaps between those who reported using a computer at home/having access to the Internet at home and those who did not could be influenced by other factors, including socioeconomic background characteristics such as parents' educational attainment and family income.1 NAEP assesses student performance in science at grades 4, 8, and 12 in both public and private schools across the nation.2 NAEP science assessments have been administered periodically since 1990; the most recent were administered in 2015. The 2015 NAEP science assessment was administered in a paper-and-pencil format. In addition to the assessment, NAEP includes a questionnaire to provide context for student performance. The NAEP science questionnaire includes questions on demographics, as well as questions about students' use of computers and access to the Internet at home.

In 2015, average science scale scores varied by whether students reported that they used a computer at home and whether they had access to the Internet at home. Differences were observed at both grades 4 and 8 and across various student and school characteristics, including sex, racial/ethnic group, ELL status, school poverty status,3 and school locale. The NAEP science score range is from 0 to 300 for both grade levels.4


Figure 17.1. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science scale scores of 8th-graders, by selected student and school characteristics and computer use at home: 2015

Figure 17.1. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science scale scores of 8th-graders, by selected student and school characteristics and computer use at home: 2015

NOTE: Scale ranges from 0 to 300. Includes students tested in science with accommodations (10 percent of all 8th-graders); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (1 percent of all 8th-graders). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Science Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 223.40.


On the 2015 science assessment, students who used a computer at home scored higher than those who did not use a computer at home. The average 8th-grade science scale score was 156 for students who used a computer at home, compared to 136 for those who did not use a computer at home. The average 4th-grade science scale score was 156 for students who used a computer at home, compared with 141 for those who did not use a computer at home. This pattern was consistently observed across student and school characteristics. For example, the average 8th-grade science scale scores for students who used a computer at home and for those who did not were 159 vs. 141 for non-ELL students, and 113 vs. 102 for ELL students. Similarly, the average 8th-grade science scale scores for students who used a computer at home and for those who did not were 171 vs. 149 for students in low-poverty schools and 136 vs. 128 for students in high-poverty schools.

Although students who used a computer at home consistently scored higher on the 2015 science assessment than those who did not use a computer at home, the differences in the average science scale scores between those who reported using a computer at home and those who did not varied by racial/ethnic group, ELL status, and school poverty status in 2015. For example, the score difference between 8th-grade students who used a computer at home and those who did not was larger for White students (16 points) than for Hispanic and Black students (12 points each). The score difference was also larger for non-ELL students than for ELL students (18 points vs. 11 points), and larger for students in low-poverty schools than for students in high-poverty schools (22 points vs. 8 points). In addition, the score difference varied by school locale: the score differences were 23 points and 22 points, respectively, for students in suburban and city schools, compared to 14 points for those in town schools and 13 points in rural schools. Most of these variations in score difference observed at grade 8 were also observed at grade 4. One exception was that the measurable differences observed among White and Hispanic students at grade 8 were not also observed at grade 4. The score difference associated with home computer use was not measurably different between males and females at either grade level.


Figure 17.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science scale scores of 8th-graders, by selected student and school characteristics and internet access at home: 2015

Figure 17.2. Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science scale scores of 8th-graders, by selected student and school characteristics and internet access at home: 2015

NOTE: "Access to the Internet" was one item on a list preceded by the question "Do you have the following in your home?" For each item, students could either select "Yes" or leave the item blank. Students who left the "access to the Internet" item blank are counted as having no internet access at home. Scale ranges from 0 to 300. Includes students tested in science with accommodations (10 percent of all 8th-graders); excludes only those students with disabilities and English language learners who were unable to be tested even with accommodations (1 percent of all 8th-graders). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2015 Science Assessment, NAEP Data Explorer. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 223.40.


Average 2015 science scale scores were higher for students who reported that they had access to the Internet at home than for those who did not at both grade 4 and grade 8. The average science score was 156 for 8th-grade students who had access to the Internet at home, compared to 135 for those who did not have access. At grade 4, the average science score was 158 for students who had access to the Internet at home, compared to 133 for those who did not have access. This pattern was consistently observed across student and school characteristics. For example, the average 8th-grade science scale scores for students who had access to the Internet at home and those who did not were 157 vs. 136 for male students and 154 vs. 134 for female students. Similarly, the average 8th-grade science scale scores for students who had access to the Internet at home and for those who did not were 150 vs. 124 for students in city schools, 159 vs. 138 for students in suburban schools, 155 vs. 141 for students in town schools, and 158 vs. 141 for students in rural schools.

The differences in science scale scores between those who had access to the Internet at home and those who did not varied by student and school characteristics. For example, the 2015 score difference between White 8th-grade students with access to the Internet at home and those without access (13 points) was smaller than the differences for Black and Hispanic 8th-grade students (21 points each). By school locale, the score difference was largest for 8th-grade students in city schools (26 percent), and larger for those in suburban schools (21 points) than for those in town schools (14 points). The 8th-grade score difference was not measurably different by sex, ELL status, or school poverty status. Some of the differences observed at grade 8 were not observed at grade 4. For instance, the science score difference associated with home internet access was not measurably different between White and Black 4th-grade students. Also, at grade 4 the science score difference was larger for students in city (29 points) and suburban schools (27 points) than for students in town (18 points) and rural schools (20 points). In addition, the science score difference was larger for non-ELL than ELL 4th-grade students (23 points vs. 18 points).


1 Associations between socioeconomic characteristics and DLR access are presented in Section 1 of this report.
2 The results for grade 8 students are shown in the figures. The results for grade 4 students are available in reference tables cited at the end of the indicator.
3 In this indicator, low-poverty schools are those with 025 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and high-poverty schools are those with 76100 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. For more discussions on using free or reduced-price lunch data as a proxy for poverty, see the NCES blog "Free or reduced-price lunch: A proxy for poverty?".
4 Although the score ranges are identical, the scales were derived independently at each grade; therefore, scales cannot be compared across grades.



Reference Tables

  • Table 17.1. (Digest table 223.40) Average National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science scale score and percentage distribution of 4th- and 8th-graders, by computer use and internet access at home and other selected characteristics: 2015