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Chapter 8. State Indicators

Elementary and Secondary Education

Fourth grade science proficiency


  • In 2009, 32% of fourth grade public school students nationwide performed at or above the proficient level in science. Among the states, there were significant differences in the percentage of fourth grade public school students who demonstrated proficiency in science. State values for this indicator ranged from 17% to 47%.
  • Nationally, the percentage of fourth grade white students demonstrating proficient performance in science was 46% compared to 13% for Hispanic students and 10% for black students.
  • A gender difference was reported with 34% of male fourth grade public school students scoring at or above the proficient level in science compared to 31% of their female counterparts. The range by state was 18%–49% for males and 16%–49% for females.


This indicator represents the proportion of a state's fourth grade students in public schools that has met or exceeded the proficiency standard in science. The National Assessment Governing Board sets performance standards that provide a context for interpreting National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results. The standards define "proficiency," as well as "advanced" and "basic" accomplishment. For the fourth grade, the proficient level (scores 167–223) represents solid academic performance and demonstrates competency over challenging subject-matter knowledge. The advanced level (224–300) signifies superior performance. The basic level (131–166) denotes partial mastery of knowledge and skills that are prerequisite for proficient work.

The National Center for Education Statistics has advised that science achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution. Approximately 156,500 fourth grade students in 9,330 schools participated in the 2009 NAEP science assessment. A designation of NA (not available) indicates that the state either did not participate in the assessment or did not meet minimum guidelines for reporting. NAEP allows students with disabilities or limited English-language proficiency to use certain accommodations (e.g., extended time, individual testing, or small group testing). All data presented here represent scores from tests taken with accommodations offered.

Data Table

Table 8-4
Students reaching proficiency in fourth grade science, by state: 2009
State 2009
United States 32
Alabama 27
Alaska NA
Arizona 22
Arkansas 29
California 22
Colorado 39
Connecticut 40
Delaware 34
District of Columbia NA
Florida 32
Georgia 27
Hawaii 25
Idaho 35
Illinois 32
Indiana 35
Iowa 41
Kansas NA
Kentucky 45
Louisiana 25
Maine 42
Maryland 33
Massachusetts 45
Michigan 34
Minnesota 43
Mississippi 17
Missouri 40
Montana 43
Nebraska NA
Nevada 23
New Hampshire 47
New Jersey 39
New Mexico 24
New York 30
North Carolina 30
North Dakota 45
Ohio 41
Oklahoma 28
Oregon 34
Pennsylvania 38
Rhode Island 34
South Carolina 33
South Dakota 40
Tennessee 33
Texas 29
Utah 38
Vermont NA
Virginia 46
Washington 35
West Virginia 28
Wisconsin 41
Wyoming 37
Puerto Rico NA

NA = not available

NOTES: National average for United States is reported value in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports. NAEP grade 4 science scores for public schools only.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, NAEP (various years).

Science and Engineering Indicators 2012

Source Data

State Data Tool

The state data tool allows interactive exploration of the 58 indicators in this chapter. Users have the ability to choose and explore a single indicator in-depth, compare multiple indicators for preselected groups, customize their own graphics, or download data tables. Click the button below to get started.