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For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

Massachusetts 8th Graders Show Strong Performance on 2011 NAEP Science Exam

MALDEN - The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced that Massachusetts 8th graders tied for second nationally in science performance on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam.

Massachusetts 8th graders had an average scaled score of 161 on the 2011 NAEP Science exam, which was not significantly different than in 2009 (160) but higher than the national average of 151. Forty-four (44) percent of 8th graders in Massachusetts scored Proficient or above in science last year. Only one state, North Dakota, where students had an average score of 164 and 45 percent were Proficient or above, outperformed Massachusetts 8th graders. The NAEP scale for science is 0-300.

"NAEP sets a high standard for excellence, and I am pleased that our 8th graders have continued their strong performance since last time," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "We are always looking to improve performance, and efforts underway to revise the state's science framework will help to ensure that schools in Massachusetts deliver a top-notch science curriculum to all students."

"A solid foundation in science and technology/engineering is a critical component of Governor Patrick's vision for a 21st century education that will adequately prepare our young people for success in post-secondary studies and career," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "Today's results continue to be encouraging and we will keep striving to improve and uphold high expectations for all of our students to reach high in science."

Additional results for Massachusetts included:

Grade 8 Science:

  • 44 percent of all Massachusetts students scored Proficient or above, similar to 2009 (41 percent) and significantly higher than the national average of 31 percent.
  • In 2011, Asian/Pacific Islander students scored 170, white students scored 169, African American students scored 133, and Hispanic students scored 130.
  • 55 percent of Asian students scored Proficient or above in science, as did 52 percent of white students, 15 percent of African American students, and 12 percent of Hispanic students.
  • Male students scored higher than female students in 2011 in science (164 to 159).
  • The performance of students with disabilities (143), English language learners (92), and students eligible for free or reduced price lunch (141) did not change significantly between 2009 and 2011.

The science content for NAEP is defined by a series of statements that describe key facts, concepts, principles, laws, and theories in Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth and Space Sciences. A second aspect of the science framework is defined by four science practices that students should know and be able to do – Identifying Science Principles, Using Science Principles, Using Scientific Inquiry, and Using Technological Design.

Expanding students' knowledge of and interest in science and related fields has been a key component of the Patrick-Murray Administration's education efforts. Recognizing the important role that Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) fields play in the state's economy, the Patrick-Murray Administration began, early in its tenure, collaborating with STEM stakeholders across the state to assess existing STEM related programs in Massachusetts. With more than 1,000 different programs in the Commonwealth, Governor Patrick signed an Executive Order in 2009 creating the Governor's STEM Advisory Council to increase collaboration, coordination and results in STEM education, jobs and workforce development. The Council, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Murray, released the state's first STEM Plan at the 2010 STEM Summit. Since the plan's implementation, Lieutenant Governor Murray and the Council have organized regional networks and infrastructure across the state to move STEM policies towards the goals and benchmarks outlined in the plan. Through the work of the Council, Massachusetts has received national recognition as a nationwide leader in STEM from the National Governor's Association, Change the Equation and Innovate+Educate.

In 2011, the Patrick-Murray Administration endorsed six @Scale Initiatives selected by the Council for projects aimed at increasing PreK-12 student interest in and readiness for STEM college majors. The Governor's Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposed $1.5 million in funding for the STEM Pipeline Fund, an increase of $500,000 from Fiscal Year 2012 which will support the state's @Scale Initiatives and STEM Plan to increase the number of students and teachers engaged in STEM and improve the state's STEM educational offerings.

NAEP, also known as "The Nation's Report Card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in core subjects. NAEP assesses representative samples of students in all 50 states and reports state-level results at grades 4 and 8. NAEP only assessed 8th graders in science in 2011. In Massachusetts, roughly 2,300 students were randomly selected to take a NAEP exam in science. Results in reading and math were previously reported.

Additional information on NAEP is available on the Nation's Report Card website at

Last Updated: May 10, 2012
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