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Chapter 8. State Indicators

Elementary and Secondary Education

Eighth grade science proficiency


  • In 2009, 29% of eighth 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 eighth grade public school students who demonstrated proficiency in science. State values for this indicator ranged from 15% to 43%.
  • Nationally, the percentage of eighth grade white students demonstrating proficient performance in science was 41% compared to 12% for Hispanic students and 8% for black students.
  • A gender difference was reported with 32% of male eighth grade public school students scoring at or above the proficient level in science compared to 26% of female eighth grade public school students. The range by state was 17%–47% for males and 13%–38% for females.


This indicator represents the proportion of a state's eighth 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 eighth grade, the proficient level (scores 170–214) represents solid academic performance and demonstrates competency over challenging subject-matter knowledge. The advanced level (215–300) signifies superior performance. The basic level (141–169) denotes partial mastery of knowledge and skills that are prerequisite for proficient work. The National Center for Education Statistics has determined that achievement levels are to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution.

Approximately 151,100 eighth grade students in 6,920 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 8-8
Students reaching proficiency in eighth grade science, by state: 2009
State 2009
United States 29
Alabama 19
Alaska NA
Arizona 22
Arkansas 24
California 20
Colorado 36
Connecticut 35
Delaware 25
District of Columbia NA
Florida 25
Georgia 27
Hawaii 17
Idaho 37
Illinois 28
Indiana 32
Iowa 35
Kansas NA
Kentucky 34
Louisiana 20
Maine 35
Maryland 28
Massachusetts 41
Michigan 35
Minnesota 40
Mississippi 15
Missouri 36
Montana 43
Nebraska NA
Nevada 20
New Hampshire 39
New Jersey 34
New Mexico 21
New York 31
North Carolina 24
North Dakota 42
Ohio 37
Oklahoma 25
Oregon 35
Pennsylvania 35
Rhode Island 26
South Carolina 23
South Dakota 40
Tennessee 28
Texas 29
Utah 39
Vermont NA
Virginia 36
Washington 34
West Virginia 22
Wisconsin 38
Wyoming 36
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 8 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.