DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA SCIENCE SCORES FOR 8TH GRADE STUDENTS RELEASED First-Time NAEP Results Establish Statewide Baselines, Indicate Improvements Needed

Thursday, May 10, 2012
OSSE Contact: Marc Caposino, 202-727-7207
WASHINGTON, DC – District of Columbia 8th Grade students scored lower than national averages in science-based subject matter achievement in 2011, according to The Nation’s Report Card, a biennial report released today by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Results are statewide and represent both District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and District public charter schools.
Measuring student’s knowledge and abilities in the areas of physical science, life science, earth and space sciences, the 2011 average scale score for 8th Grade in Washington D.C. was 112 –compared against a national public average of 151 – and placed the District 52nd among U.S. states and jurisdictions.
“Without question, today’s report is a sobering reality-check,” said State Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley. “Science proficiency is critical for 8th Grade students’ high school, college and career readiness, and these results reflect a deficit that we will work diligently to overcome.”
“I am deeply disheartened by the city’s low performance in science, but at the same time encouraged by the fact that if some of our students are performing at the high levels made clear in this report, then all of our students can do the same. We can’t give up on the promise, and the commitment, that all our students deserve a world-class education,” said Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. “These data show us that we have work that we need to do to get our students on track. As a start, we are strengthening our science offerings and instruction through the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, as well as improving professional development opportunities for our teachers.”
“We are deeply troubled by the poor performance of our eighth graders on the NAEP Science Assessment,” added D.C. Public Charter School Board Executive Director Scott Pearson. “Given the importance of science education to the future of our city and our nation, we all must redouble our efforts to improve the effectiveness of science education in Washington, D.C.” 
With voluntary assessments uniformly administered every two years, NAEP is widely accepted as the largest common comparative metric for longitudinal comparison of related subject areas, using the same testing framework and test booklets across the nation.
Along with noting that District 4th and 8th Graders demonstrated improvement on the 2011 NAEP Math results, Mahaley explained that the ongoing statewide integration and alignment of Common Core standards will increase District schools’ instructional capacity and ability to emphasize science content, rigor, clarity and specificity. “Our goal is to provide District students with the exploratory and instructional science experiences that may lead them to discovery,” she added.
Citing the recent designation of Washington D.C. by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute as a national leader in state science standards and the District’s active participation in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Mahaley also mentioned assembling a statewide team of teachers, administrators, higher education representatives, and state board members to examine best practices in grade-level science education as another example of the collaborative efforts already underway that, while in their early stages, aim to raise the level of student science achievement in the District of Columbia.
Remarked Mahaley: “We will meet students where they are, and the 2011 NAEP findings allow us to, at a minimum, establish the baseline indicators, subject and skill-specific science instruction needed to align statewide student achievement to the global standards required of them to compete from cradle to career.”
By her estimation, also increasing the probability of statewide 8th grade NAEP science scores skewing lower is the longstanding obstacle of national data reports comparing the District of Columbia against entire states rather than other urban centers.
“D.C. often ranks lower when compared to states such as Maryland, Ohio, and Michigan when, by and large, a more accurate comparison to the District would be Baltimore, Cleveland, or Detroit,” she notes. 
While NAEP has indeed conducted a Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) for metro school systems in other academic subjects, NAEP 2011 Science results were not subjected to TUDA analysis.
Editor’s Note: Additional information along with complete results of the Nation’s Report Card: 2011 Grade 8 Science is available for review and download online at www.nagb.org, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute State of State Science Standards can be found at http://osse.dc.gov.