- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska and Iowa have placed in the top third of the country for science proficiency on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress science test.

The science test results for fourth, eighth and 12th grade students were released Thursday. The U.S. Department of Education administers the test every few years, which measures knowledge in physical science, life science and earth and space sciences. It also gauges knowledge of science practices.

Scores are placed into four different categories: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. According to the results, proficiency rates in Nebraska and Iowa public schools exceeded the national average of 37 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced.

Peggy Carr, acting commissioner for the National Center for Educational Statistics, said students across the board are improving, but minority students and girls are making gains to narrow achievement gaps, the Omaha World-Herald reports (https://bit.ly/2eK1pr1 ).

“This is exactly what we like to see: all students improving, but students at the bottom of the distribution making faster gains.”

The two states still plan to work on improving scores because the results show only about 1 in 100 of the nation’s fourth-graders scored in the advanced category, while about 1 in 6 fourth-graders scored below basic.

“It is a relatively small percent,” said Bull Bushaw, executive director of the Nation Assessment Governing Board. “But what we’re looking for and what we actually saw on this assessment is growth.”

Even with the small advanced percentage, 47 percent of Nebraska’s fourth-graders and 42 percent of Iowa’s fourth-graders were proficient or higher.

Bushaw stressed that the test is designed to be rigorous and challenging. Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said the state should be pleased with its students’ performance.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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