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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #12-44
May 10, 2012
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Torlakson Notes Gains Among Latino
Students on NAEP 2011 Grade Eight Science Assessment

SACRAMENTO—While California eighth grade students showed little progress overall on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test, the state's Latino students made significant gains, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

"We've got a long way to go, and clearly we need to do more to support students and school science programs," Torlakson said. "But given the enormous challenges facing our schools, it's noteworthy that we are continuing to see signs of progress in science—a field that is crucial to the future of our students and our state."

Significant gains were made by the state's Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged students from 2009, the last time the NAEP science test was given. In California and nationally, however, large gaps persist between the average scores of Latino and African American students and their white and Asian peers. As a group, white and Asian students continue to perform at the NAEP Basic achievement level, while Hispanic and black students perform below the NAEP Basic achievement level.

Large score gaps also remain between English learners and English fluent students, as well as between socioeconomically and non-socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

In comparing scores between California and the nation, California's Asian and black student groups performed comparably to their peers nationally, while the State's Latino and white student groups scored lower than their peers nationally.

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. In comparing results between states, it is important to focus subgroup level performance rather than overall performance, since demographic differences (e.g., percentage of English learners) between states can affect overall state scores. Additionally, in evaluating NAEP results, it is important to consider sampling error because score differences may not be statistically significant.

NAEP assessments are based on assessment frameworks developed under the direction of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP. Because NAEP assessments are not directly aligned to California's content standards, direct comparisons of NAEP and California Standardized Test results are not appropriate. A key difference in grade eight science is the focus on Physical Science in California's content standards and greater emphasis on Earth and Space Sciences in the NAEP assessment framework.

Complete state and national results for the 2011 NAEP grade eight science assessment are available online at The Nation's Report Card - National Assessment of Educational Progress - NAEP [] External link opens in new window or tab.. No results will be released for individual students, schools, or districts.

The U.S. Department of Education will link results from the 2011 NAEP grade eight mathematics and science assessments to those from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which also assessed grade eight students in science and mathematics in 2011. Every state will receive a projected state-level TIMSS score, and California will be one of nine states to receive detailed subgroup-level results that can be compared to the more than 60 countries which participated in TIMSS 2011. Results from this linking study are expected to be available in late 2012 or early 2013.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, March 30, 2020
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