NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pupils' Knowledge Of Science Poor

October 22, 1997

About two-thirds of U.S. students have a basic understanding of science, but only about one-third can use that knowledge to do grade level work, according to the federal government's National Assessment of Educational Progress report released yesterday.

The NAEP tested about 130,000 students in grades four, eight and 12 in both public and private schools in 1996. Students' abilities were rated at either below basic, basic, proficient or advanced. Only those in the highest two categories were deemed to be performing at grade level.

  • Only 29 percent of fourth- and eighth graders and 21 percent of seniors performed at grade level -- with 3 percent of these in each grade being capable of advanced work.
  • Showing a basic or higher understanding were 67 percent of fourth graders, 61 percent of eighth graders and 57 percent of seniors.
  • Finishing below basic were 33 percent in grade four, 39 percent in grade eight and 43 percent in grade 12.

Students in Washington, D.C., schools did the poorest of any group of eighth graders. Their average score was only 113, compared to 163 for their peers in Maine -- the highest scoring state. An astonishing 81 percent of the D.C. group were rated below basic. Only 22 percent of their counterparts in Maine and North Dakota were deemed below basic in their science knowledge.

Source: Tamara Henry, "Most Kids Have Basic, But Not Working, Science Knowledge," USA Today, October 22, 1997.


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