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Massachusetts students rank high on national science exam

Massachusetts fourth- and eighth-graders ranked first and second in the country in science on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress exams, Governor Deval Patrick announced on January 25.

The latest results add to an already outstanding record for Massachusetts students. Since 2005, Bay State fourth- and eighth- graders have led the nation in performance on NAEP exams in both reading and math.

“I congratulate both our students and teachers for yet another academic success,” said MTA President Paul Toner. “These results are evidence of the hard work educators do every day to help our students succeed, despite the challenges they face in their classrooms.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is commonly referred to as “The Nation’s Report Card.”

Governor Patrick announced the science results at the Jireh Swift Elementary School in New Bedford, where students have made significant progress on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests, especially in science. Last fall, the school was named one of 187 Commendation Schools statewide, an honor reflecting its progress in closing proficiency gaps and increasing student achievement. On the grade five science MCAS test in 2010, 37 percent of students at the Swift reached proficiency, up from 21 percent in 2009. Students also demonstrated success in English, with gains in grades three and five, as well as increases in math in grades four and five.

“These results continue our record of nation-leading student achievement here in Massachusetts,” Governor Patrick said of the NAEP science results. “Our future success as a Commonwealth is directly tied to our ability to provide our students with a quality education, and today’s results confirm that high expectations and hard work are paying off.”

NAEP is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in core subjects. NAEP assesses representative samples of students in all 50 states and reports state-level results at grades four and eight.

On the 2009 NAEP science exam, Massachusetts fourth-graders had an average scaled score of 160, above the national average of 149. They ranked first in the nation, tied with New Hampshire and eight other states.

At grade eight, Massachusetts students also averaged 160, again above the national average of 149. The eighth-graders ranked second, tied with 10 other states. North Dakota placed first.

While state-level NAEP results in science have been reported previously (in 1996, 2000 and 2005), the introduction of a new NAEP science curriculum framework precludes the comparison of 2009 science results to those of prior years.

Massachusetts students have also done well on numerous other comparative exams. In 2007, on the Trends in Mathematics and Science Survey exams, Massachusetts fourth-graders ranked second worldwide in science achievement, while the state's eighth-graders tied for first worldwide in science.

The new NAEP results, like others, reflect a continued achievement gap, with lower scores attained by African-American, Hispanic and special needs students.

“Massachusetts educators remain committed to addressing that gap,” Toner said.

In Massachusetts, roughly 7,400 students were randomly selected to take a NAEP exam in reading, math or science. The 2009 NAEP results in math and reading were released previously.

Additional information on NAEP is available at http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/ and www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/naep.