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Mark Schneider
Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics

National Assessment of Educational Progress NAEP 2005 Science Results
May 24, 2006

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2005 Science Results MS PowerPoint (3891KB)

Good morning. I am Mark Schneider, Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which conducts the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. I am here today to share with you the results of the NAEP 2005 Science assessment.

OVERVIEW OF THE 2005 SCIENCE ASSESSMENT

The NAEP 2005 Science Assessment was given last year to fourth-, eighth- and twelfth-grade students across the country. I will present national results for all three grades, and state-level results for grades 4 and 8. Participation in the state-level assessment was voluntary, and I am pleased to report that the great majority of states choose to participate. We obtained representative samples in 44 states for both grades 4 and 8, and the Department of Defense Schools System participated at both grades as well.

We had large student samples for science in 2005 for both the fourth and eighth grades, over 140,000 in each. The twelfth-grade sample, for the nation only, was about 14,000. We can compare our 2005 national results with previous science assessments in 2000 and 1996. Our state-level comparisons go back to 2000 for grade 4 and to 1996 and 2000 for grade 8.

OVERVIEW OF NATIONAL RESULTS

Each grade is assessed on its own 300-point scale. The average score for each grade is designed to be close to 150. At the fourth-grade, the average score was higher in 2005 than in either 1996 or 2000. The average score for eighth-graders, on the other hand, did not show any significant difference when compared with their scores for the prior two assessments, while twelfth-graders had a lower score in 2005 than in 1996.

FOURTH-GRADE NATIONAL RESULTS

Let's take a closer look at how our fourth-graders are performing.

The national average score for fourth-graders was 151. Their score rose about 4 points in comparison with 1996 and 2000.

We can examine the range of student performance more closely through the use of percentile scores. For example, students in the top 10 percent-those at or above the 90th percentile-scored at least 189, while those at or below the 10th percentile scored no higher than 109. It was middle- and low-performing students, those at the 50th percentile and below, who showed significant gains. Those at the 10th percentile in 2005 scored 10 points higher than their counterparts in 2000. When we make comparisons of student performance in NAEP, we must test to see whether the differences are statistically significant. All NAEP results are based on samples. That means that there is a margin of error associated with every score. When we compare scores, we conduct statistical tests to determine whether the differences are larger than the margins of error-whether they are statistically significant. In our reports, we only discuss statistically significant differences. We indicate these differences on our tables and figures with asterisks.

FOURTH-GRADE NATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT-LEVEL RESULTS

The National Assessment Governing Board, or NAGB, sets policy for NAEP. The Board has established Basic, Proficient, and Advanced achievement levels for each subject. These achievement levels provide standards for what students should know and be able to do. We report the percentages of students at or above these levels.

Achievement-level results for fourth-graders in science show us the same pattern as scale scores-improvements for lower- and middle-performing students. More lower-performing students moved up into the Basic category, and the percentage of students at or above Basic increased from 63 percent to 68 percent, while the percentage at or above Proficient did not change significantly.

FOURTH-GRADE NATIONAL RESULTS BY RACE/ETHNICITY

NAEP provides separate results for the five major racial/ethnic student groups in U.S. schools. In 2005, White, Black, and Hispanic students all scored higher in science than in either previous assessment year. The average score for Asian and Pacific Islander students was higher in 2005 than in 1996. For American Indian and Alaskan Native students, we do not see a change. These students constitute about 1 percent of the total student population, so the margin of error associated with their scores is fairly large.

Comparing White and Black students, we find that the score gap in 2005 was smaller than in either 1996 or 2000, although on average White students still scored higher than Black students. The gap narrowed even as scores for both White and Black students were increasing, thanks to the 9-point gain for Black students. Comparing White and Hispanic students, we see the gap was narrower than in 2000, but not when compared to 1996. Again, scores for both student groups were higher than in previous years, and the average score for White students remained higher than that of Hispanic students.

FOURTH-GRADE NATIONAL RESULTS BY ELIGIBILITY FOR FREE/REDUCED-PRICE SCHOOL LUNCH

NAEP uses eligibility for the federal free and reduced-price school lunch program as an indicator of family income. To qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, students must come from a family with an income of no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Both eligible and non-eligible students scored higher in 2005 than in either previous assessment year. The larger increase in the score for lower-income students resulted in a narrowing of the gap since 2000.

FOURTH-GRADE CHANGES IN AVERAGE STATE SCORES FROM 2000 TO 2005

At the state level for the fourth-grade, we can only make comparisons to 2000 for the 37 states that participated in both 2000 and 2005. Fourth-graders in 9 states had higher average scores in 2005 than in 2000, while the other 28 states for which we can make a comparison showed no significant change.

FOURTH-GRADE SCIENCE ITEM MAP

One way to illustrate the achievement levels is to look at the questions that students typically answer correctly at each level. For example, students who scored at 159, within the Basic achievement-level range, were likely to be able to correctly answer a question that asked them to predict and explain water displacement by two objects. Students were shown two solid steel balls of different sizes and asked to identify the one that would displace more water.

Students who scored at 185-in the Proficient range-were likely to be able to answer a question about the consumption of oxygen by combustion. Students were asked why the candle in a jar without a lid burned longer than candles in jars with lids.

Students scoring at 231-at the Advanced level-were likely to be able to correctly identify the conductivity of seven items on a list: house key, rubber band, coin, toothpick, fork, plastic spoon, and aluminum foil. The key, coin, fork, and aluminum foil are good conductors of electricity, while the others are not.

EIGHTH-GRADE NATIONAL RESULTS

For the eighth-grade, we have both national and state data going back to 1996. We don't see significant change in overall scores from either 1996 or 2000 to 2005. The Science Framework recognizes three fields of science-Earth science, physical science, and life science-and we can measure student performance in each of these fields. Nationally, the eighth-grade average score for physical science was lower in 2005 than in either 1996 or 2000. For the other two fields, we don't see a change.

EIGHTH-GRADE NATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT-LEVEL RESULTS

The achievement-level results showed the same pattern of no change for students performing either at or above Basic or at or above Proficient.

EIGHTH-GRADE NATIONAL RESULTS BY RACE/ETHNICITY

When we focus on the performance of different student groups, we see that the average score for Black students increased from 121 in 1996 to 124 in 2005-and that these students were the only racial/ethnic group to show a significant change.

The gap between White and Black students did not show a change, despite an increase in the score for Black students. There was also no change in the White-Hispanic gap.

EIGHTH-GRADE NATIONAL RESULTS BY ELIGIBILITY FOR FREE/REDUCED-PRICE SCHOOL LUNCH

Looking at the gap between the scores for students who are and are not eligible for the free and reduced-price school lunch program, we do see a change, a narrowing of the gap from 2000 to 2005, as the score for lower-income students rose 3 points.

EIGHTH-GRADE CHANGES IN AVERAGE STATE SCORES FROM 2000 TO 2005

At grade 8, we have results for both 2000 and 2005 for 37 states. Scores were higher in 10 states and the Department of Defense schools and lower in 4 states. We can also examine state performance in each field of science, and we see quite a bit of variation here. In California, Hawaii, and Virginia, students' scores rose in all three fields.

TWELFTH-GRADE NATIONAL RESULTS

At grade 12, we have national results for the three assessment years. The average score in 2005 was lower than in 1996 but not different from 2000. The drop from 1996 was detected for higher- and lower-performing students, but not for those at the 50th percentile.

TWELFTH-GRADE NATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT-LEVEL RESULTS

When we look at achievement-level percentages for twelfth-graders, we see changes in comparison with 1996 but not with 2000. The percentages of students performing at or above Basic, at or above Proficient, and at Advanced, all declined since 1996. In addition, the percentage of students who scored below Basic increased since 1996.

TWELFTH-GRADE NATIONAL RESULTS BY RACE/ETHNICITY

There was some variation in the scores from year to year for the five racial/ethnic groups, particularly for American Indian and Alaskan Native students, but none of the differences was statistically significant. This is due in part to the relatively small sample size at grade 12. At the twelfth-grade, the White-Black gap in 2005 was no different than in 1996, but was wider than in 2000. The White-Hispanic gap in 2005 did not change from either of the previous assessment years.

TWELFTH-GRADE RESULTS BY REGION OF THE COUNTRY

We do not have state data for the twelfth-grade. We do, however, have regional data. The average score in the Midwest was higher than in all three of the other regions in 2005, while the score in the Northeast was higher than either the South or the West.

SUMMARY OF 2005 RESULTS

I have described the results in detail. Now to recap. Nationally, there were many increases at grade 4 in 2005-scores for almost all groups were up in comparison to both 1996 and 2000. The gap between White and Black students narrowed in comparison with both prior assessments, while the gap for White and Hispanic students narrowed in comparison to 2000. The gap between students eligible for the National School Lunch Program and those not eligible also narrowed compared to 2000.

At grade 8, there was no change in overall scores from either 1996 or 2000 compared with 2005. Black students were unique among the racial/ethnic groups in making gains, with a higher average score for 2005 in comparison with 1996. The gap between students eligible for the National School Lunch Program and those not eligible also narrowed compared to 2000.

At grade 12, we saw two changes-a lower average score overall in 2005 than in 1996, and a wider White-Black gap in comparison with 2000.

PowerPoint presentation for:
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2005 Science Results MS PowerPoint (3891KB)

MORE INFORMATION

There is a great deal more information in the 2005 Science Report Card. In addition, the Initial Release website, nationsreportcard.gov, allows you to access a wide variety of online data for the 2005 science assessment. In closing, I would like to thank the students and schools who participated in this assessment. I would also like to thank my staff and the contractors who worked on this assessment.

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