Skip all navigation and go to page content.

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 substantial 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 public school students demonstrating proficient performance in science was 46% in 2009 compared to 10% for black students, a gap of 36 percentage points, and 13% for Hispanic students, a gap of 33 percentage points, based upon racial classifications provided by the schools.


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 determined that achievement levels should be used on a trial basis and 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. Students with disabilities or limited English-language proficiency are allowed to use certain accommodations (e.g., extra testing time or individual rather than group administration). All data presented here represent scores from tests taken with accommodations offered. For additional details on NAEP scores by gender and race/ethnicity, see appendix tables 8-1 to 8-12.

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 Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) grade 4 science scores are for public schools only. For additional details on NAEP scores by sex and race or ethnicity, see appendix tables 8-1–8-12.

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

Science and Engineering Indicators 2014

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.