With the input of scientists and educators, the National Assessment
Governing Board (the oversight body for the NAEP) has defined three
levels of student performance - Basic, Proficient, and Advanced - for
each of the three grade levels, with the belief that all students should
perform at the Proficient level or above. The 2000 national survey shows
that 29 percent of fourth-graders, 32 percent of eighth-graders, and
18 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the level of Proficient
in science. At each grade, over 30 percent of students did not perform
at even the Basic level.
This science assessment was first conducted in 1996, and again in 2000.
For the 2000 survey, 47,000 students from the three grades, in public
and private schools, were surveyed for the national assessment. A separate
sample of 180,000 public-school students from 45 states and jurisdictions,
in grades four and eight only, was used to assess participating states,
and compare state scores to a national average.
The science assessment was divided into two main areas: Fields of Science
(earth, physical, and life sciences) and Ways of Knowing and Doing Science
(conceptual understanding, scientific investigation, and practical reasoning).
Students were given both multiple-choice and constructed-response questions,
and approximately half the students also received hands-on tasks involving
experimentation. The 2000 national assessment breaks out student performance
at the three proficiency levels as follows:
Of the fourth-graders, 34 percent of students in the assessment performed
below the Basic level and 37 percent performed at the Basic level. The
percentage of fourth-graders performing at the Proficient level was
26 percent, and the percentage performing at the Advanced level was
4 percent. In 1996, the percentages of students performing at each level
were: below Basic: 33 percent; Basic: 38 percent; Proficient: 26 percent;
and Advanced: 3 percent.
In eighth grade, 39 percent of students performed below the Basic level
and 29 percent were assessed at the Basic level. The percentage of students
performing at the Proficient level was 28 percent, while 4 percent were
considered Advanced. In 1996, the percentages of eighth-graders performing
at each level were: below Basic: 39 percent; Basic: 32 percent; Proficient:
26 percent; and Advanced: 3 percent.
The percentage of twelfth-graders performing below the Basic level
was 47 percent. The percentage performing at the Basic level was 34
percent; while 16 percent were considered Proficient, and 2 percent
were considered Advanced. In 1996, the percentages of students performing
at each level were: below Basic: 43 percent; Basic: 36 percent; Proficient:
19 percent; and Advanced: 3 percent.
Performance of public-school students in grades four and eight was
also assessed for most states and some U.S. jurisdictions. At the fourth-grade
level, of the 44 states and jurisdictions included, 20 scored higher
than the national average, 11 scored at the national average, and 13
scored below. Massachusetts had the highest average score for fourth-graders.
At the eighth- grade level, of the 42 states and jurisdictions included,
18 scored higher than the national average, 11 scored at the average,
and 13 scored below. For eighth-graders, the state with the highest
average score was Montana.
Data was collected for subgroups of students based on race or ethnicity,
and gender. According to the report, the achievement levels of the racial/ethnic
subgroups generally varied little between 1996 and 2000; for students
testing at or above the Basic or Proficient levels, the only statistically
significant change was a decline in the percent of white twelfth-graders
testing at or above the Basic level. Gender differences showing boys
outperforming girls in grades four and eight widened between 1996 and
2000, while there was no statistically significant gender gap at the
twelfth-grade level. The report also looked at such factors as teachers'
undergraduate major, computer use in classrooms, and science courses
taken by the students.
The report, "The Nation's Report Card: Science 2000," and
accompanying materials can be found at http://www.nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/science/results/.
The NAEP assessments in reading and math may contribute to progress
on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.
Leaders of the House-Senate conference committee have been working through
the fall to resolve differences in the two versions of this bill (now
both referred to as H.R. 1). Reportedly, a tentative resolution to one
sticking point will be to use biennial NAEP surveys to calibrate and
compare the results of statewide fourth- and eighth-grade assessments
in reading and math. The full 39-member conference committee was scheduled
to meet this week to vote on some ESEA issues, and key conferees remain
determined to complete the bill this year. Appropriators are delaying
the FY 2002 Labor-HHS- Education appropriations bill partly in hopes
of seeing the outcome of the ESEA reauthorization bill, but may have
to move forward without final guidance from ESEA.