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WA Students Beat National Average in Science

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SEATTLE (AP) — Washington eighth graders did better than the national average on a science test that is given to kids across the country, but two-thirds of the middle school students who took the national science assessment still aren’t proficient in the subject.

That’s better than the national average, where seven out of 10 kids are not scoring at the proficient level. Also striking: just 2 percent of eighth graders in Washington and across the nation have the advanced skills that could lead to science careers.

This information comes from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation’s Report Card. The results were released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education.

School-level and individual student test scores are not released for this test because it is given to only a sample of the student population that reflects the state’s demographic diversity

Washington did better than the national average in all three subject areas tested in 2011: reading, math and science.

The average score in Washington for science was 156, a few points above the national average of 152 and up only slightly from Washington’s scores in 2009, the last year the science test was given. Washington eighth graders did better than 26 other states and jurisdictions, and about the same as 11 others.

State officials point out one other bright note in the Washington scores: Hispanic students improved their average scores by about 10 points since the science test was last given to eighth graders in 2009. They’re still far behind their white classmates, however, when the percentage who score proficient is compared: 17 percent versus 43 percent.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said this year’s test results show the state is moving in the right direction.

“Our kids are eager to learn about science,” said Dorn, referring to a questionnaire associated with the national test that showed two-thirds of Washington students report they like science. “We need to maintain that interest and build momentum by providing opportunities to take their science learning to the next level.”

Dorn has said that middle school and high school science scores aren’t going to take a giant leap on this test or on the state’s own proficiency exams given to every student until more time is spent teaching science in the lower grades. Few elementary students get more than an hour or two a week in science instruction.

About 61.1 percent of eighth graders passed Washington’s Measurements of Student Progress science exam in 2011.

The two tests are based on different standards and a different group of kids sit for the exams, but Washington students continue to show improvement on both.

“Nationally, only 31 percent of kids meet the proficient level or better. Washington does a little better than 31 percent proficient but we still have plenty of room to improve,” said OSPI spokeswoman Kristen Jaudon.

– Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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