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Nation’s Students Improve Science Skills, Achievement Gap Narrows

Nation’s Students Improve Science Skills, Achievement Gap Narrows

The newly released results of the Nation's Report Card: 2015 Science indicate that efforts to help U.S. students succeed in science are working.

The Nation’s Report Card has been administered to U.S. students since 1969 and is used to determine how the nation’s students are performing in various subjects using three standards: Basic, Proficient and Advanced. The last science assessment was administered to 4th and 12th graders in 2009; 8th graders in 2011.

When compared to the latest assessment data, both 4th and 8th graders increased proficiency by four percentage points. Overall, 4th and 8th graders both performed better in all three categories: physical science, life science and Earth science.

Scores for 12th graders, however, did not improve or decline.

"In 2015, 22 percent of 12th graders performed at or above the Proficient achievement level, which denotes competency over challenging subject matter. Additionally, 38 percent of fourth graders and 34 percent of eighth graders performed at or above Proficient—an increase of 4 percentage points at both grades compared with 2009,” said the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) aka the Nation’s Report Card in a statement.

The new results indicate that efforts to narrow the achievement gap between white and minority students are working, as well.

Overall, the NAEP says the "score gaps between black and white students and between Hispanic and white students at both grades four and eight have narrowed since 2009.”

While many states increased student achievement in respective areas, the NAEP says Tennessee showed the largest improvements to the point where its public school students are now outperforming their national peers.

The NAEP speculates using data from its student and teacher questionnaires that increasingly exposing students to science both in and outside of the classroom is helping U.S. students make gains.

For example, 8th graders who participated in hands-on activities in science class every day, who visited museums, zoos or aquariums outside of school and who had teachers with access to “school-proven tools for teaching science” significantly outperformed their peers.

Read the full report here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

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