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NEWS RELEASES 2001-02 :: NOVEMBER 20, 2001


North Carolina's fourth graders scored at the national average and above the Southeast average, and eighth graders scored just below the national average but above the Southeast average on the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test. North Carolina's eighth graders' score remains the same as it was in 1996, the first year of NAEP science testing for states. 2000 was the first year fourth graders were assessed with the state level NAEP assessment.

For grade four, the average score for North Carolina students is 148, the same as the average score for the nation. Students in the Southeast scored 141 in grade four. In grade eight, the average score is 147 for North Carolina students, while the national score is 149 and the Southeast score is 143. North Carolina's score is not significantly different from the national average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

NAEP science scores are reported on a scale of 0 to 300. Performance also is reported by achievement levels, Basic, Proficient and Advanced.

For the first time, the science assessment included students with disabilities and limited English proficient students who required accommodations. Previously, no accommodations or adaptations were available to include these students in NAEP science testing. To allow for comparison to the 1996 science testing, the results that are being reported by NAEP are for students for whom testing accommodations were not permitted. In the future, accommodations will be permitted in all NAEP assessments consistent with the requirements of federal legislation for students with disabilities or limited English proficiency. North Carolina testing officials have been urging NAEP administrators to provide accommodations that would allow more students to participate in the testing.

The performance of North Carolina's fourth graders is higher than students in 13 states and other jurisdictions, not significantly different from that of 11 states and other jurisdictions and lower than performance in 19 states and other jurisdictions.

Eighth graders in North Carolina scored higher than students in 10 states and other jurisdictions, not significantly different from 11 states and other jurisdictions and lower than 20 states and other jurisdictions.

State Superintendent Mike Ward said the results for fourth grade provide a benchmark to measure progress in future years. He noted that it is encouraging that eighth graders in this state maintained their standing in light of the fears by some that subjects other than mathematics and reading are not emphasized as much as in the past. "However," he cautioned, "we're not seeing the gains in science that we've seen in mathematics and reading. These scores indicate the need to emphasize quality instruction in science."

State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk said that in his visits to classrooms across the state, he sees teachers integrating science, math, reading, social studies, the arts, health and other subjects into their lessons. "We're encouraged by these NAEP results, but not satisfied. The importance of students getting a good grounding in science cannot be overemphasized. Many occupations today and in the future require students to know and be able to apply scientific principles."

North Carolina has several efforts under way to improve science performance. A new science curriculum went into effect in 2000-01 and various supplemental documents for teachers, along with special training, are helping teachers deliver the new curriculum. The State Board of Education recently changed graduation requirements to make earth/environmental sciences a requirement. Also, state task forces are examining changes that need to be made to improve middle and high schools.

Besides the average scores, NAEP science results also are reported by achievement level. Basic denotes partial mastery, Proficient represents solid performance and Advanced signifies superior performance. In grade four, 24 percent of North Carolina's students tested are at or above the Proficient level while 28 percent of students nationally are at or above this level. For the eighth grade, 27 percent of North Carolina's students are at or above Proficient. This figure does not differ significantly from the 30 percent of students nationally who are at or above Proficient and is similar to the percent proficient in North Carolina in 1996 (24).

North Carolina educators are particularly concerned about closing gaps in achievement. White fourth graders scored the same as the nation (159) while black students in this state scored at 128 as compared to 124 nationally. North Carolina's Hispanic fourth graders scored higher, at 133, than other Hispanic students nationally, 127. The performance of American Indian students in this state is 132 compared to 139 for the American Indians nationally.

The gaps persist in grade eight as well. White eighth graders in North Carolina scored 35 points higher than black students in this state. North Carolina's white students in grade eight scored 158, while white eighth graders nationally scored 160. Black students in this state scored 123 while black students nationally scored 121. Hispanic students in North Carolina are above their national counterparts with a score of 139 compared to 127. American Indian data are not available.

A total of 45 states and other jurisdictions participated in NAEP science testing. The testing is focused on the three fields of science: earth, physical and life sciences, and the three elements of knowing and doing science (conceptual understanding, scientific investigation and practical reasoning). The tests included multiple-choice items and constructed response items that asked students to explain, apply, design and communicate scientific information. Some of the students also were asked to perform a hands-on task.

NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subjects. Since 1969, assessments have been conducted nationally in reading, mathematics, science, writing, history, geography and other fields. State level reporting of NAEP began with mathematics in 1990, reading in 1992, science in 1996 and writing in 1998. NAEP is known as the Nation's Report Card.

Local school system, school and individual student scores are not reported on NAEP. Test results are based on representative samples of students statewide in grades four and eight. Approximately 2,400 North Carolina students were tested at each grade.

For additional information, contact DPI Communications at 919.807.3450 or Accountability Services at 919.807.3769.

Complete NAEP results are on the web at

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.