Colorado fares well in national science testing
DENVER – Colorado’s fourth and eighth-grade students performed better than average on a national science test last year, with 32 percent and 35 percent, respectively, scoring at the proficient level or above.The national average of students scoring proficient or advanced in both grade levels was 27 percent, according to results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.While the results were encouraging, they highlighted a stark weakness in science education across the country, Colorado Education Commissioner William Moloney said.”The reality means that for the nation, barely a quarter of the kids are proficient, and for us, just barely a third,” he said. “That just is not going to stand up against the economic competitors that we’re facing now and will be in the future.”Forty-four states participated in the voluntary testing last year. It was the first time fourth-graders in Colorado were given the NAEP science test.Scores for the state’s eighth-graders, who were also tested in 1996, showed some improvement, with 32.4 percent proficient or advanced in 1996 and 34.8 at those levels last year.The test results showed boys outperformed girls, and larger performance gaps were revealed based on race and ethnicity and eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch.”This is a huge problem. The only difference is we’ve kind of known this for years, but we’re not exactly making any startling progress in doing something about it,” Moloney said. “There are good things happening, we know where they are, and they are spreading. But the tragedy is there are far, far too few of these stories.”Among fourth-graders, 34.7 percent of boys scored proficient or better, compared to 28.7 percent of girls. Among eighth-graders, 38.3 percent of boys scored proficient or better, compared to 31.2 percent of girls.White students outperformed black, Hispanic and Asian students at both grade levels, and students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch – an indicator of their families’ income levels – performed significantly worse than students who did not qualify.Improving science has surged to the top of the education agenda for President Bush and Congress as corporate leaders, universities and scientific groups have pleaded for action. Science skills strongly influence how well workers can handle a huge range of today’s jobs.A National Academies panel has warned the U.S. faces such a crisis in math and science that today’s children could have poorer prospects than their parents or grandparents.Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools are graded – and face consequences for failure – only in math and reading, not science. Bush has proposed changing that.The National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the Education Department, administers the test. A national sample of more than 300,000 students took the test in 2005.
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