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NEWS RELEASES 1996-97 :: MAY 2, 1997


North Carolina received more good education news today with the release of the science results of the 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress for eighth grade.

North Carolina eighth-graders scored just below the national average and six points higher than the Southeast region. This is the first time this national science assessment has been done at the state level.

NAEP science scores are reported on a scale of 0 to 300. North Carolina's average science score was 147. This average did not differ significantly from that for the nation, 148, and the full NAEP report lists North Carolina among the 11 states at or around the national average. Among other states on that list are New York, Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky.

States in the Southeast posted an average scale score of 141, below North Carolina and the nation overall. (Proficiency levels for the science test have not been released. They will be available at a later date.)

State Superintendent Mike Ward said that the NAEP results confirmed that North Carolina is making progress with students, not only in reading and mathematics, but in other core curriculum areas such as science. "Science is a subject area that is increasingly important for students to master, both to understand the world around them and to be competitive in the economic market," he said.

"This news should encourage all of us as we move forward to make schools even better than they are today. We are fortunate to have a Governor and General Assembly that are emphasizing education. This good news underlines the good work that North Carolina schools can do with the right resources and emphases."

North Carolina's science curriculum in grades kindergarten through eight has a balance of life, earth and physical science, and the state's optional testing program in science is designed to test much of the same material measured by the NAEP in science.

The positive results from the 1996 science NAEP are the culmination of a strong curriculum, as well as teachers who are well-prepared to teach the curriculum. Department of Public Instruction science specialists, the North Carolina Science Teachers Association and the Math and Science Education Network have been partners in the effort to help science teachers continually improve their skills.

The 1996 science assessment measured students' knowledge of earth, life and physical science facts, as well as students' ability to use those facts and the tools, procedures and reasoning processes of science. The assessment employed a variety of strategies, including multiple choice questions and hands-on tasks, such as observation, data collection and analysis.

The NAEP results are considered the most reliable data for comparing the performance of students among states. Mandated by Congress, the NAEP tests are given in reading or mathematics at least every two years, in science and writing at least every four years and in history or geography and other subjects selected by the National Assessment Governing Board at least every six years.

North Carolina has recently received other positive news from the NAEP results for eighth- and fourth-grade mathematics and for fourth-grade reading. North Carolina's fourth-graders bested the national average in math for the first time in 1996, posting a gain nearly triple the nation's since 1992. Eighth-grade mathematics scores were above the Southeast region and showed a nine-point gain since 1992.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.