Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Science test scores rise for 4th and 8th grades

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky fourth- and eighth-graders did a little better than others on national science tests, according to results released Tuesday.

        However, more children with disabilities had their scores excluded from the mix, prompting a critic to question whether Kentucky's gain was artificial.

        The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is billed as “the nation's report card,” was given last year to samples of students representing demographic groups — male and female, white and minority. There are no individual scores. The science test was last given in 1996 but only to eighth-graders.

        Kentucky fourth- and eighth-graders posted average scores of 152 on a scale of zero to 300. National averages were 148 and 149, respectively. Kentucky's eighth-graders averaged 147, one point below the national average, in 1996.

        Gov. Paul Patton said Kentucky was “one of only three states to make significant progress in eighth-grade science” since 1996 — “significant” defined as at least a four-point gain.

        Thirty percent of Kentucky fourth-graders and 38 percent of eighth-graders scored “below basic.” Comparable figures were, respectively, 36 percent and 41 percent for the nation, 44 percent and 48 percent for the Southeast.

        Twenty-nine percent of Kentucky fourth-graders scored “at or above proficient,” and 3 percent scored “advanced.” Both were equal to or better than percentages for the Southeast and the nation.

        Among Kentucky eighth-graders, 29 percent were at least proficient and 3 percent were advanced. Nationally, the figures were 30 percent and 4 percent. For the Southeast, they were 24 percent and 3 percent.

        Boys had higher average scores than girls at both levels — 155-150 at grade 4 and 155-148 at grade 8.

        Black students in Kentucky had higher scores than did their peers nationwide but lagged significantly behind white students. Their averages were 129 at grade 4 and 126 at grade 8. National averages were 124 and 121, respectively.

        No “accommodations,” such as extra testing time for students with disabilities or limited English proficiency, were permitted. So, local school officials excluded scores for 8.4 percent of fourth-graders and 9.4 percent of eighth-graders.

        According to the state Department of Education, the number of children in special education in Kentucky rose from nearly 83,000 to more than 91,000 from 1996 to 2000.

        “The question is: Are these numbers padded because of increased exclusion rates?” asked Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation.


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