NEWS RELEASES 2011-12 :: MAY 10, 2012


North Carolina eighth graders improved their average score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science in 2011, but continued to perform at a level lower than the national average. The NAEP today released results for eighth grade science for each state and the nation. This is the fifth time that the NAEP has measured science achievement since 1996.

Results were available this year only for eighth grade students. North Carolina's students had an average score of 148 as compared to the national average score of 151. The state's students improved their science score by 4 points since the 2009 administration when the state's average score was 144.

State Superintendent June Atkinson said that this year's science results illustrate the need for more science instruction and support. "Students need to be prepared for success in science in order to take advantage of careers in engineering, health care, technology and other fields. We look forward to the implementation of new science standards this fall and expect to see stronger student performance in future assessments."

North Carolina public schools are implementing new science standards in the 2012-13 school year as part of the state's new Standard Course of Study which guides teaching and learning in every grade and subject.

The percentage of North Carolina students who performed at or above the NAEP Basic level was 61 percent in 2011, greater than in 2009 when it was 56 percent. When the performance level of Proficient is used as the benchmark, 26 percent of North Carolina students performed at the Proficient level or above in 2011. In 2009, that figure was 24 percent.

North Carolina's score was higher than scores in nine states and jurisdictions, about the same as scores in 11 states and jurisdictions. It was lower than scores in 31 states or jurisdictions.

North Carolina Asian and White students had the highest average scores of 161 and 160 respectively. Black students had an average score that was 34 points lower than White students, a gap that has been consistent over time. Hispanic students had an average score that was 22 points lower than White students, which also is consistent with prior years.

The NAEP Science assessments organizes science into three broad content areas:

  • Physical Science: includes concepts related to the properties and changes of matter, forms of energy, energy transfer and conservation, position and motion of objects and forces affecting motion;
  • Life Science: includes concepts related to organization and development, matter and energy transformation, interdependence, heredity and reproduction and evolution and diversity; and
  • Earth and Space Science: includes concepts related to objects in the universe, the history of Earth, properties of Earth materials, tectonics, energy in the Earth systems, climate, weather and biochemical cycles.

The NAEP framework focuses on understanding science principles, applying scientific principles and methods to solve real-world problems and designing scientific experiments. Science is part of North Carolina's Standard Course of Study for grades K-12. In February 2010, the State Board of Education approved new statewide K-12 Essential Standards in science, and this new science curriculum will be implemented in classrooms in the 2012-13 school year.

Several thousand North Carolina eighth graders participated in the science NAEP. Students responded to both multiple choice questions and questions that required students to compose a written response. Because the assessments are given to statewide samples of students, there are no local school or district results available. Performance is reported as scale scores and achievement levels. The NAEP science assessments are presented on separate 300-point scales. Achievement levels for the science assessments are identified as Basic, Proficient and Advanced. A Basic level denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. Proficient represents solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter. Advanced represents superior performance.

NAEP Science Sample Question
(doc, 27kb)

2011 NAEP Science Snapshot
(pdf, 219kb)

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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.