Science Scores Drop

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necapVERMONT -- The statewide science assessment results from Spring 2014 were released last week for students in grades four, eight, and eleven. Results are showing that on average, students in each of these grades fell short of last years scores. 

According to Vermont.gov, state averages show that 44 percent of fourth graders in Vermont scored proficient or higher, which is down three percentage points from Spring 2013 testing. Only 25 percent of eighth graders were proficient or higher, which is seven percentage points lower than last year. In grade 11, 30 percent of students were proficient or higher, only one percentage point lower than 2013 scores. 

The science assessment testing is part of the New England Common Assessment Program, and 2014 was the seventh year of the NECAP science assessment. NECAP was devised to help measure student's scientific literacy and inquiry. Vermont released their scores at a press conference on September 25th, at White River School in White River Junction. 

Vermont.gov reports that Rebecca Holcombe, Secretary of Education, said "While some individual schools are doing very well, we are not satisfied with these scores... unfortunately we have not seen scores improve over several years' worth of data. This suggests that instructional time for science may be getting squeezed out in some places due to the federal emphasis in the No Child Left Behind Act on English language arts and math." 

As Holcombe said, some schools did do well, including a school right here in the Northeast Kingdom. Ed Webbley, principal at Danville School, said his students surpassed the state averages from Spring 2014. In fourth grade, 43 percent of students proved to be proficient or higher on the science assessment. In eighth grade, 45 percent of students tested proficient or higher, which is twenty points above the state average. In eleventh grade, students were only one percent higher than the state average.

Ed Webbley said, "I am a first year prinicpal, but I am very pleased with these scores. I'm especially taken by the eighth graders, because other middle school principals all around the state said it was a tough test, and our students did exceptionally well." 

For schools that did not test well, the state is also seeing an achievement gap between students from low-income families and their peers, and this has been seen in previous years as well. In the state of Vermont, the gap is about 24 percent, or six scaled points according to Vermont.gov. 

Whatever the reason for poor scores are, others at the conference urged that overall, more time needs to be dedicated to to improve student learning in science, because it teaches them to ask questions, and solve problems.