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Vt. science test results: mixed bag

MONTPELIER Statewide science assessment results for Spring 2008 were released by the Vermont Department of Education last week. The results are from the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) science exams, given to Vermont public school students for the first time in grades four, eight and 11. Forty-eight percent of Vermont fourth graders tested were proficient or higher in science. In grade eight, 26 percent were proficient or higher. In grade 11, 25 percent were proficient or higher. These first-year results give us valuable information we need to help all schools improve, said Acting Commissioner Bill Talbott. We can learn from those with the highest scores and share best practices to ensure that all Vermont students get the opportunity to succeed in science. As seen in previous years statewide and nationally, an achievement gap persists between students from low-income families and their peers. In grade four, only 31 percent of those students were proficient or higher, compared to 57 percent of their peers. In grade eight, only 12 percent of those students were proficient or higher, compared to 32 percent of their peers. In grade 11, only 12 percent of those students were proficient or higher, compared to 28 percent of their peers. Most schools report being in the process of aligning their curriculum to the state science standards, said Educational Assessment Director Michael Hock. This is a critical first step before we make any judgments about student performance. However, classroom strategies that emphasize hands-on inquiry science, as well as integrate reading and writing instruction with science, may contribute to closing achievement gaps. The NECAP exams were created in collaboration with Rhode Island and New Hampshire. These exams are designed to specifically assess how well Vermont students have learned the skills and content contained in the Vermont Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities. This is the first year of results on the NECAP science exams

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