Many Vermont Students Still Not Showing Proficiency On Standardized Science Test

Oct 16, 2015

Vermont students, on average, are still not proficient in science. Results from the 2015 New England Common Assessment Program — or NECAP — show no statistically significant improvement over 2014 scores for grades 8 and 11. And there’s a slight dip in fourth grade scores.

Michael Hock is state testing director.

“You know we only have 40 or so percent of our kids that are crossing that threshold line that we associate with proficiency. So yeah, it’s a big concern,” Hock said.

But Hock also says averaging scores can be misleading about the quality of science instruction in Vermont because some students, and some schools, scored much higher than others on the test. There is also a big achievement gap between students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch, and those who are not. Vermont’s test, unlike many other states’, asks students to do hands-on experiments and analyze results. Hock says those challenging tasks tended to bring some of the lowest scores.  

Releasing the results today, Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe said schools are working hard to improve scientific literacy at every level.

”Our children need to be scientifically literate and able to reason from scientific evidence and able to ask important scientific questions, whether they want to be scientists or just good citizens worried about issues like climate change," Holcombe said in a statement. "Some of our schools provide excellent opportunities to learn in science, and others have work to do. We are committed to supporting improvements in science instruction across all our systems, to ensure that all our children, no matter where they live, have access to high-quality science instruction."

New national science standards are also being developed that will replace those measured by NECAP.