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Vol. 46, No. 37
May 11, 2012

Eighth Graders Hold Steady on National Science Test

Scores exceed national average, but state ranking slips

A national report released May 10 shows that science test scores for Missouri eighth graders have held steady for the past two years and continue to exceed the national average. However, Missouri's national ranking on the test declined as other states improved their scores.

According to The Nation's Report Card from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the average science test score for eighth graders in Missouri was 156 in 2011, compared to an average score of 151 nationwide. When compared to other states, Missouri's performance on the test slipped from 13th in 2009 to 18th in 2011.

"We are pleased that Missouri eighth graders are maintaining their level of academic achievement in science, but students are now competing for science jobs in a global economy,” said Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro. "We need to keep pace with technological advancements to better prepare students for the demands of college and the workplace.”  

The percentage of eighth graders in Missouri scoring at the "basic" and "proficient" levels on the test remained about the same over the past two years.  Thirty-six percent of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level in 2009 and 2011. Seventy-two percent of students scored at or above the basic level in 2011, compared to 71 percent in 2009.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education uses the NAEP science test results as one measure for its Top 10 by 20 initiative, an education improvement effort that aims for student achievement in Missouri to rank among the top 10 states in the nation by 2020.

"Boosting academic achievement in science is an essential part of our Top 10 by 20 plan," Nicastro said.

The 2011 NAEP science assessment tested eighth graders in three areas:  physical science, life science, and earth and space sciences. The assessment was last completed in 2009 when the test was updated to incorporate new advances in science, including components from international assessments.

While the NAEP science test is typically conducted every four years, the 2011 assessment was added to coincide with international science testing to allow for comparison among participating countries. Last year, more than 50 countries conducted the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test. A report on how the United States' and Missouri's science scores compare with the international scores is expected late this year or in early 2013.

NAEP testing is the largest continual measurement of academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States.