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Dorn: NAEP Scores Show We Need More Science in Our Schools Before We Have a Graduation Requirement

OLYMPIA – January 25, 2011 – State Superintendent Randy Dorn said the 2009 NAEP science results released today are another strong indication of his call for increased science instruction in our state before we have a science graduation requirement.

Results from the 2009 science National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) show the nation’s students continue to struggle with science. Washington students were barely above the national average in eighth- and fourth-grade testing.

In the past two years, Dorn said, the state Legislature has eliminated all science professional development funding from a high of $10.6 million in 2009.

“We continue to expect more, but are giving less to our teachers and students,” Dorn said. “Our state test results and the 2009 NAEP results show we need to put a stronger emphasis on science instruction, especially if we are holding our students accountable to a high school graduation requirement. This is another wake-up call of where we need to place our focus.”

Dorn’s proposed science legislation (Senate Bill 5226), heard Monday by the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education committee, calls for a delay in the science assessment graduation requirement until the class of 2017. The state is transitioning to an end-of-course biology exam in spring 2012, but Dorn has proposed two more end-of-course exams in physical science and integrated science so students can choose the path that best suits their academic goals.

Washington’s average eighth-grade score of 155 was six points higher – a statistically significant margin – than the national public school average of 149. Six states and one jurisdiction (Department of Defense schools) finished higher than Washington.

In fourth grade, Washington’s score of 151 was statistically even with the national public average of 149. A total of 13 states and DoD schools finished higher. Unlike eighth grade, Washington does not test science in fourth grade.

Results from a 2009 questionnaire of fourth-grade teachers in Washington showed that 44 percent are teaching science less than two hours per week – only four states reported less science instruction. Additionally, just 7 percent of Washington fourth-grade teachers reported four hours or more of science instruction per week, less than half the national average of 20 percent.

“We need to teach science every day, just like we do reading, writing and math,” Dorn said. “And it needs to be quality instruction. We have industries and businesses in our state that are forced to look elsewhere because we don’t put a high enough priority on kids learning science.”

On the 2009 science NAEP, 34 percent of Washington eighth-graders and 33 percent of fourth-graders scored at or above proficient, which NAEP defines as “competency over challenging subject matter.” The proficiency level on NAEP is higher than on Washington’s Measurements of Student Progress, where proficiency is defined as grade-level performance.

Both Washington fourth- and eighth-graders either outperformed or were equal to their 12-state western region counterparts in most categories.

Science was tested on the NAEP for the first time since 2005. The 2009 science NAEP used a new testing framework and was scored on a different scale than 2005, thus results aren’t comparable.


About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

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More information

OSPI’s NAEP home page

Washington NAEP results

The Nation’s Report Card (NAEP’s national page)


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