Monday October 1, 2012

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Vermont’s fourth-, eighth- and 11th-graders did slightly better at science on a regional assessment of public school students, but there’s still room for improvement, officials said.

Results from New England Common Assessment Program exams in May were released this past week. They show one third of Vermont public high school juniors were rated proficient or higher at science. Thirty percent of eighth-graders and 53 percent of fourth-graders made the grade.

Fourth-graders’ scores were flat, while proficiency rates increased 1 percentage point among eighth-graders and 2 percentage points among high school juniors.

The tests combine scores from short-answer and multiple-choice questions with student write-ups of lab results from a science experiment.

"As in previous years, many of our students struggled with the writing portion of the inquiry task that requires them to explain the results of their mini-research study, supporting their conclusions with the data they collected," Michael Hock, director of educational assessment, said in a statement.

Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca said he’s hoping for improved scores in the future, thanks in part to an increasing emphasis on reading and writing in both science and social studies.

Both in Vermont and nationally, low-income students lagged significantly behind their peers, a result that has not changed significantly over the past two years.