Idaho tops national average on science exam

Idaho students topped the national average in a 2015 standardized science test.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tested fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders in science — and on Thursday morning, NAEP released state results for fourth and eighth grades. NAEP tests are not given in all schools in Idaho or elsewhere, but are instead administered to a sample of U.S. schools.

The Idaho highlights:

  • The state’s fourth-grade average came in at 156 on a 300-point scale. That’s above the national average of 153. Idaho’s scores are also up slightly from 2009, when the state average came in at 154.
  • Idaho’s eighth-grade marks were even better. The state’s average score was 160, ranking No. 9 nationally and topping the national average of 153. Again, Idaho showed slight improvement over time, from a 2009 average of 158 and a 2011 average of 159.

The NAEP scores come as Idaho is ramping up its emphasis on the so-called “STEM” disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math — in the belief that a STEM focus will better prepare Idaho graduates for the workplace. The 2015 Legislature funded a new STEM Action Center, housed under Gov. Butch Otter’s office. The center’s main effort in 2016 is the launch of a new state computer science initiative.

Despite Thursday’s solid NAEP scores, Idaho still has work to do.

The report revealed large, statistically significant achievement gaps between white and Latino students — a 28-point gap in fourth grade, and a 24-point gap in eighth grade.

The report also revealed lingering socioeconomic gaps. Fourth-graders who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch scored 19 points lower on the science NAEP. For eighth-graders, this gap was 16 points.

Idaho also has a science gender gap. Fourth-grade boys scored two points better on the NAEP than girls; eighth-grade boys scored four points higher than girls.

In both fourth and eighth grade, national NAEP scores increased to 154, up from 150 in 2009. The average 12th-grade score remained unchanged at 150.

The NAEP science test covers three broad areas — physical science, life science and earth and space science. Students are then tested on four scientific practices: identifying science principles, using science principles, using scientific inquiry and using technological design.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. For a national perspective, here’s a story from National Public Radio.

 

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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