Kentucky’s 8th grade science scores in the latest national assessment exceed that of the nation’s average, but the state made less progress overall. “The average scale score for our 8th graders in science is six points above the national average,” said Lisa Gross, spokeswomen for the Kentucky Department of Education.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is the only nationwide assessment measuring 4th and 8th grade students every couple years in various subjects. Among the more popular are math, reading and writing. Only 8th grade students were tested in science in 2011 but the results show nationwide gains in proficiency and achievement gaps among minority students.
Kentucky students, again, performed at a 34 percent proficiency level in science, which is similar to the scores from two years ago. The national average, however, increased two points during that time to 32 percent proficiency.
Part of the success in science in the Commonwealth could be attributed to the state keeping the subject around in the state’s assessments, said Richard Innes, with the Bluegrass Institute.
Gerry Wheeler, interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, said No Child Left Behind, the 1992 federal education law, is partly to blame because it emphasized reading and mathematics at the expense of science.
“We even have members in elementary schools who say, ‘My principal told me to stop teaching science,’ ” Wheeler said.
“Kentucky didn’t do that,” said Innes. “We kept on with science in our assessment program, which told our schools, science is important and we don’t want you to forget to teach it,” he said.
Further, when considering Kentucky’s success across the board, white students in the state tested lower than white students nationwide, but Kentucky’s African American students tested significantly higher.
According to NAEP Kentucky has some of the highest number of white students in the public school system.