WASHINGTON – Eighth-graders in Maryland public schools scored below the national average in a science test last year, the Education Department said Tuesday.
Fifty-five percent of Maryland eighth-graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress test showed “basic” or better proficiency in science, compared to 60 percent nationwide.
Maryland ranked 25th out of 44 jurisdictions that participated in the test in sufficient numbers to be reported by the department.
Students at the basic level were expected to be able to identify the characteristics of different types of organisms and use data from graphs.
The 25 percent of Maryland public school students who scored at or above the “proficient” range were expected to draw conclusions from experimental data and show awareness of environmental issues. Twenty-seven percent of students nationally scored at or above the proficient level.
Two percent of Marylanders who took the test scored in the “advanced” level, meaning they should be able to critique basic scientific experiments and describe their results in detail. Nationally, 3 percent ranked in the highest category.
Maryland’s black students scored slightly better than the national average for black students, with 26 percent scoring at or above the basic skill level compared to 23 percent nationally.
Poor and minority students scored lower than the general population in Maryland, mirroring national trends. Male and female students had similar scores in the state and the country.
Maryland Education Department spokesman Ronald Peiffer said agency officials have not had a chance to analyze the new data.
The federal government has offered a national assessment test since 1988. In previous years, the test has assessed proficiency in mathematics, reading, U.S. history, geography and writing.
A panel appointed by Congress sets the tests’ standards, which are used for interstate and international comparison.
Individual students’ scores are not made available to the schools or students.