Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. EA 2.3 Science proficiency

04/01/1997

One the National Education Goals for the year 2000, adopted by Congress, is to improve the relative standing of U.S. students in science achievement.26 In a 1995 comparison of American eighth graders to 40 other countries, the Third International Math and Science Study showed that U.S. students had significantly lower overall science proficiency scores than students in 9 countries, had similar scores to students in 16 countries, and had higher scores than students in 15 countries.27 Levels of science achievement, both in the U.S. and internationally, will help measure the extent to which these goals are being met.

In order to present time trends in science proficiency levels, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports five different proficiency levels, ranging from Level 150 (knows everyday science facts) to Level 350 (integrates specialized scientific information).28 The following tables (Tables EA 2.3.A, EA 2.3.B, and EA 2.3.C) report the average science proficiency scores of students in three age groups (9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds).

Trends in Science Proficiency Levels. Average science proficiency scores have increased among all age groups since 1977. Among 9-year-olds, average science proficiency scores increased between 1977 (219.9) and 1994 (231.0) (see Table EA 2.3.A). Among 13-year-olds, average scores increased between 1977 (247.4) and 1994 (256.8) (see Table EA 2.3.B). Among 17-year-olds, average science proficiency scores declined between 1977 (289.5) and 1982 (283.3), after which they increased to 294.0 in 1994. Thus, gains in science proficiency levels among 17-year-olds were not as great as gains for the other two age groups.

Differences by Gender. In 1994, females scored slightly lower than males on average science proficiency scores among 13-year-olds and 17-year-olds.

Differences by Race and Ethnicity.29 There are large differences in science proficiency scores by race and ethnicity among all age groups. For example, among 17-year-olds in 1994, whites had higher average science proficiency scores (306.0) than blacks (256.8) or Hispanics (261.4) (see Table EA 2.3.C). However, black 17-year-olds had especially high gains in achievement since 1977 (see Figure 2.3). Black 9-year-olds and 13-year-olds also showed high gains in science achievement over time.

Differences by Parents Education. Average science proficiency levels vary dramatically by parents education level.30 For example, among 13-year-olds and 17-year-olds in 1994, the lowest average science proficiency scores were among teens whose parents did not have a high school education, while the highest scores were among teens who had a parent who had graduated from college. In fact, in 1994 the average science proficiency score among 13-year-old children of parents with a college education (268.8) was substantially higher than the average score among 17-year-old children of parents without a high school degree (255.8) (see Tables EA 2.3.B and EA 2.3.C).

Differences by School Type. Average science proficiency scores have been consistently higher among students attending non-public schools than among students attending public schools. This is true for every age group and every year reported.
 

Figure EA 2.3  
Science Proficiency Age 17, Average Proficiency of Students, by Race/Ethnicity: 1977-1994  

EA2_3.GIF

Note: The science proficiency scale ranges from 0 to 500.
Level 150: Knows everyday science facts
Level 200: Understands simple scientific principles
Level 250: Applies general scientific information
Level 300: Analyzes scientific procedures and data
Level 350: Integrates specialized scientific information

Source: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994 Trends in Academic Progress.
 

Table EA 2.3.A 
Science Proficiency Age 9, Average Proficiency of Students, by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Type of School: 1977-1994 

 
 
 
 
1977 
1982 
1986 
1990 
1992 
1994 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
219.9 
220.8 
224.3 
228.7 
230.6 
231 
 
Gender
 
 
Male
221.1 
221 
227.3 
230.3 
234.7 
232.2 
 
 
Female
217.6 
220.7 
221.3 
227.1 
226.7 
230 
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
229.6 
229 
231.9 
237.5 
239.1 
240.3 
 
 
Black, non-Hispanic
174.8 
187 
196.2 
196.4 
200.3 
201.4 
 
 
Hispanic
191.9 
189 
199.4 
206.2 
204.7 
201 
 
Type of School
 
 
Public
218 
219.7 
226.6 
227.7 
229.1 
229.5 
 
 
Non-Public
234.6 
231.5 
233 
236.8 
240.2 
242.2 
 
Note: The science proficiency scale ranges from 0 to 500:
  
Level 150: Knows everyday science facts
  
Level 300: Analyzes scientific procedures and data 
  
  
Level 200: Understands simple scientific principles
  
Level 350: Integrates specialized scientific information 
  
  
Level 250: Applies general scientific information
  
 
  
Source: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994 Trends in Academic Progress.

 
 

Table EA 2.3.B 
Science Proficiency Age 13, Average Proficiency of Students, by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Parents Education, and Type of School: 1977-1994 

 
 
 
 
1977 
1982 
1986 
1990 
1992 
1994 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
247.4 
250.1 
251.4 
255.2 
258 
256.8 
 
Gender
 
 
Male
251.1 
255.6 
256.1 
258.5 
260.1 
259.4 
 
 
Female
243.7 
245 
246.9 
251.8 
256 
254.3 
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
256.1 
257.3 
259.2 
264.1 
267.1 
266.5 
 
 
Black, non Hispanic
208.1 
217.1 
221.6 
225.7 
224.2 
223.9 
 
 
Hispanic
213.4 
225.5 
226.1 
231.6 
237.5 
232.1 
 
Parents Education
 
 
Less than high school
223.5 
225.3 
229.4 
232.9 
233.8 
234.3 
 
 
Graduated high school
245.3 
243.1 
244.8 
247.3 
246.4 
247.1 
 
 
Some education after HS
260.3 
258.8 
257.8 
262.8 
265.9 
260.4 
 
 
Graduated college
266.4 
263.5 
264.4 
267.5 
269.2 
268.8 
 
Type of School
 
 
Public
245.2 
248.5 
250.9 
253.6 
257.2 
255.4 
 
 
Non-Public
267.7 
263.7 
263.1 
269 
264.5 
267.6 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note: The science proficiency scale ranges from 0 to 500:
  
Level 150: Knows everyday science facts
  
Level 300: Analyzes scientific procedures and data 
  
  
Level 200: Understands simple scientific principles
  
Level 350: Integrates specialized scientific information 
  
  
Level 250: Applies general scientific information
  
 
  
Source: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994 Trends in Academic Progress.

 
 

Table EA 2.3.C 
Science Proficiency Age 17, Average Proficiency of Students, by Gender,  Race/Ethnicity, Parents Education, and Type of School: 1977-1994 

 
     
1977 
1982 
1986 
1990 
1992 
1994 
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
289.5 
283.3 
288.5 
290.4 
294.1 
294 
 
Gender
 
 
Male
297 
291.9 
294.9 
295.6 
299.1 
299.5 
 
 
Female
282.2 
275.2 
282.3 
285.4 
289 
288.9 
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
297.7 
293.1 
297.5 
300.9 
304.2 
306 
 
 
Black, non Hispanic
240.2 
234.7 
252.8 
253 
256.2 
256.8 
 
 
Hispanic
262.3 
248.7 
259.3 
261.5 
270.2 
261.4 
 
Parents Education
 
 
Less than high school
265.3 
258.5 
257.5 
261.4 
262 
255.8 
 
 
Graduated high school
284.4 
275.2 
277 
276.3 
280.2 
279.2 
 
 
Some education after HS
295.6 
290.1 
295.1 
296.5 
295.9 
294.8 
 
 
Graduated college
309.3 
300.2 
303.8 
305.5 
308.3 
310.6 
 
Type of School
 
 
Public
288.2 
282.3 
287.1 
289 
292.2 
291.7 
 
 
Non-Public
308.4 
292 
321.3 
307.8 
311.7 
310.4 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note: The science proficiency scale ranges from 0 to 500:
  
Level 150: Knows everyday science facts
  
Level 300: Analyzes scientific procedures and data 
  
  
Level 200: Understands simple scientific principles
  
Level 350: Integrates specialized scientific information 
  
  
Level 250: Applies general scientific information
  
 
  
Source: U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1994 Trends in Academic Progress.

 

26 National Center for Education Statistics. (1994). NAEP 1992 Trends in Academic Progress. No. 23-TR01.

27 U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics, Pursuing Excellence, No. 97-198. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

28 NAEP has regularly been conducting assessments of U.S. students in public and private schools in order to monitor trends in academic achievement in core curriculum areas since the 1970s. NAEP uses proficiency scales that range from 0 to 500. To give meaning to the results, students performance is characterized at five levels along the proficiency scales (150, 200, 250, 300, 350).

29 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

30 Parents education is not reported at age 9 because approximately a third of these students did not know their parents education level.

View full report

Preview
Download

"97intro.pdf" (pdf, 97.9Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec1.pdf" (pdf, 163.75Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec2.pdf" (pdf, 235.24Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec3.pdf" (pdf, 269.73Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec4.pdf" (pdf, 331.35Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"97-sec5.pdf" (pdf, 202.8Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®