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California Department of Education News Release
Release: #11-12
January 25, 2011
Contact: Pam Slater
E-mail: communications@cde.ca.gov
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Comments on
Release of NAEP 2009 Science Assessment Result

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today commented on the release of the fourth and eighth grade science results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

"As a science teacher, these results are troubling. Despite the enormous efforts being made by educators, we're seeing the consequences of lagging behind other states in investing in education," Torlakson said. "This test is a less-than-precise measure of student performance in California, but it is one more signal about where we stand and where we're headed.

"These scores are telling us—loud and clear—that it's time to expand science instruction and close the achievement gap, starting with making sure our schools have the resources they need to do the job," he said.

"Like other educators and business leaders across California, I have become increasingly concerned about this issue — and more determined than ever to see more science taught in our schools. My Transition Advisory Team includes a working group on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to make this effort a priority."

At grade four, the overall average scores for both California and the nation were at the NAEP Basic achievement level, which denotes partial mastery of fundamental skills at each grade. At grade eight, the overall average score for California fell below the NAEP Basic achievement level, while the overall average score for the nation was at the NAEP Basic achievement level.

The NAEP science assessment is not specifically aligned to California's science content standards. There is no national science curriculum and each state sets its own standards. California's own science assessment system, as it has for other subjects, shows students making steady progress.

The NAEP science framework was updated for the 2009 assessment to keep the content current with key developments in science and curriculum standards, and therefore cannot be compared with results from assessments in previous years.

Looking at the average results for different demographic groups, California's white, black, and Asian students scored comparably to their peers in most other states, while the state's Hispanic students scored lower than their peers in most other states.

California is home to a significantly larger percentage of English learners than any other state. The percentage of English learners in California that participated in the grade four NAEP assessment was 29 percent, which was 19 percentage points higher than the national average. Similarly, 19 percent of California's grade eight students that participated were English learners, compared to 5 percent at the national level.

In California and at the national level, the average score for English learners fell below the NAEP Basic achievement level, while the average score for non-English learners was at the NAEP Basic achievement level.

Large gaps remain between the scores of Hispanic and black students and their white and Asian peers. In California and at the national level, Hispanic and black students scored approximately 35 points lower than white and Asian students. Additionally, grade four and eight white and Asian student subgroups scored at the NAEP Basic achievement level on average, while their black and Hispanic peers scored below the NAEP Basic achievement level. Similarly, students with disabilities and English learners scored significantly lower than their non-disabled and non-English learner peers.

NAEP is a longitudinal national assessment that tests a representative sample of students in grades four, eight, and twelve in various subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics, and science. NAEP provides a common yardstick for measuring student achievement nationwide, allowing for state comparisons. NAEP assessments are not aligned to California's content standards, but are based on an assessment framework developed under the direction of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP. Results are released for the nation, states, and certain large urban school districts; no results are released for individual students or schools.

In evaluating NAEP results, it is important to consider sampling error because small score differences may not be statistically or practically significant. Additionally, it is important to consider demographic differences between states and how such differences can affect overall state scores. It is important to examine subgroup level performance when making comparisons between states and the nation.

Complete state and national results for the 2009 NAEP science assessment are available online at The Nation's Report Card - National Assessment of Educational Progress - NAEP [http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/] External link opens in new window or tab.. Results for the school districts that participated in the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment program are expected to be released in February.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

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