Oklahoma scores in eighth grade science showed slight improvement but still remain behind the nation, according to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, released Thursday.
NAEP, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, shows that Oklahoma had an average score of 148 in 2011, up from 146 in 2009, but below the national average score of 151. The slight uptick is not considered statistically significant. The science test, administered early last year to 122,000 eighth-graders nationwide, assessed knowledge and abilities in the areas of physical, life, and earth and space sciences.
“While this shows we are beginning to head in the right direction, we simply must improve in this key discipline,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said. “Science is the gateway to the job market of the 21st Century.”
Barresi, who took office in January 2011, said improvement at the state level is already under way. “We are putting an emphasis on literacy and STEM, and we will see more improvement in this area in the future,” Barresi said.
In Oklahoma, 37 percent of eighth-graders scored below basic on the science test, 36 percent scored basic knowledge, and 26 percent scored proficient, only 1 percent of students scored advanced.
The report card also showed that gaps continue to exist between white students and those of other ethnic groups. American Indian students in Oklahoma, however, outscored their national peers.
The average score for white students in the state was 156, compared to the nation’s average of 163. Black students in the state averaged 126 versus the nation’s average of 129. Hispanic students scored 135 against the U.S. average of 137. The state’s American Indian students earned an average of 146, better than the nation’s average of 141.
For both the state and the nation, male students outperformed female students on the science test. In state, the average male score was 150, compared to the average female score of 147, compared to 154 and 149 nationally, respectively.
Gaps also still exist for students of varying income levels. Students eligible for free and reduced meals scored below non-eligible students. In state, the scores were 157 for students above the poverty line and 141 for those below. Nationally the gap was 164 to 137.
National responders said there are some factors that appear to be boosting science scores.
Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said that students doing more hands-on projects in class tended to score higher as did students who worked as a team on science projects and those who reported doing science-related activities outside of school.
NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. It is a congressionally authorized project of the National Center for Education Statistics.
To see the full Nation’s Report Card, go to http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/.