24 May 2006

Science Education For Black Children In Colorado

Most of the results of the NAEP 2005 assessment, a national test of representative samples of children in each state in science at the 4th and 8th grade levels, are "ho hum" expected results. Mississippi, as usual, did dismally overall, while Colorado, as usual, did a bit above average.

One result did stand out, however, black fourth graders in Colorado performed better on the NAEP than in any other state with a statistically significant result for black students.

On average 62% of black fourth graders in the nation performed at the lowest possible level on the test "below basic" in science. In Colorado, that percentage was a lower than any other state in the nation at 45%.

On average 7% of black fourth graders in the nation performed at the second highest proficient level and less than 0.5% performed at the advanced level. In Colorado the percentage performing at the proficient level was 10% and the percentage at the advanced level was 1%. Only Kentucky did better by that measure.

At the eighth grade level, black students in Colorado also performed well on the science test. Only Delaware and Washington State had fewer black eighth graders performing at the "below basic" level in science. At the high end with proficient and advanced performance, only Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington State had better performing black eighth graders.

Again, the 8th grade science results for black students aren't really anything to write home about. Nationally, 73% score at the below basic level, while 6% score at the proficient level and less than 0.5% score at the advanced level. In Colorado the numbers are 61% below basic, 11% proficient and less than 0.5% advanced.

The study doesn't cast light on the question of whether this is a result of Colorado's small African-American community being disproportionately affluent, or whether it is a product of a better school system, but good news like this does bear repeating.

Hispanic eight graders did reasonable well by national standards in Colorado, but not nearly so exceptionally well as black students at either grade level, and Hispanic fourth graders in Colorado were further behind than Hispanic eight graders. Colorado also didn't do exceptionally well among students eligible for free or reduced price school lunches.

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