The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) announced that Arizona’s 2011 eighth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Science scores improved three points from its 2009 science scores. NAEP is considered the gold standard in reliable and valid assessments. While the nation’s science scores as a whole improved, Arizona’s science scores improved at a faster rate.
Much of Arizona’s academic gain stems from the state narrowing the science test score gap between White students and Black and Hispanic students and between students not-eligible for free/reduced lunches and those students who are eligible. The test score gap between White students and Hispanic students closed by five points. This is significant considering nearly an equal number of White and Hispanic students were tested, and given Arizona’s large population of Hispanic English language learners.
“I am encouraged by our eighth-graders’ test score gains on NAEP Science from 2009 to 2011, and particularly applaud the concerted efforts of our state’s educators to narrow the performance gap between students from a more fortunate background and those disadvantaged students most at risk,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal.
Superintendent Huppenthal continued, “While we should be encouraged today, too many of our students are still being left behind by their state, national and international peers. It is our imperative as a state and as an education community to close the gap altogether, and not rest satisfied until every student receives an education that prepares him or her to succeed in college and career.”
Arizona has taken bold, important steps toward greater and faster student test score gains in science and other core subject areas.
Arizona leads the way in developing the Next Generation Science Standards along with 25 other states. These new standards are being set to internationally competitive levels in science. Arizona’s adoption of substantially more enriching and rigorous new standards— Arizona’s College- and Career-Ready Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics—will also play a large role in increasing students’ learning in science coursework.
Increased English and math proficiency prepares students to read at a higher difficulty level, make concrete evidence-based arguments, and apply sound mathematical practices. All of these skills are foundational for teaching science concepts and scientific reasoning and critical thinking at higher levels.
Arizona winning a competitive $25 million U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top (RTTT) grant also plays a key role in supporting the state’s efforts to improve student learning, particularly in science and math. The RTTT grant includes the implementation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the curriculum to support the teaching of Arizona’s College- and Career-Ready Standards, along with the teaching of the Science Standards and Educational Technology Standards. Many districts and charters across the state are implementing STEM programs, and even STEM schools in some cases, to ensure their students are globally competitive.