Results of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) science test, administered to students in grades 4, 8, and 11, were released today by Commissioner of Education Virginia M. Barry, Ph.D. The science test, administered in May 2011, measured what students know and are able to do in the areas of Earth & Space Science, Physical Science, Life Science, and Inquiry. NECAP is a collaborative partnership involving three states: New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. This partnership was established in response to the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which requires that states annually measure the achievement of all students in grades 3-8, and in one grade in high school. Reading and mathematics assessments have been required since 2005. Science was required to start in 2008. The NECAP scores in reading and mathematics for grades 3-8 and 11 are used in the calculation of school and district AYP determinations. Science is not included in AYP determinations at this time.
These tests marked the fourth year of NECAP science assessments. New Hampshire scores have improved at all three grade levels since the initial 2008 assessments. Fifty-five percent of New Hampshire students tested scored proficient or better in science at grade four (up one percentage point from 2010). In grade eight, 28 percent scored proficient or better (up one percentage point from 2010), and in grade eleven, 27 percent demonstrated proficiency in science (up three percentage points from 2010). It is important to note that the NECAP is only one measure of academic progress and a single annual assessment is not a sufficient way of measuring overall student success.
"Score results show improvement in science proficiency at all three grades tested,” said Commissioner Barry. “This is an indication that schools and districts are working to improve their science instruction, as well as align their professional development plans to support this work. We need to continue to help schools and districts so that all educators have the resources and knowledge they need to teach science effectively.”
The NECAP Science Assessment brings advancement in science assessment to NH by focusing less on what students can remember (facts and figures) and more on how students can use their understanding of science concepts. Because of cost savings realized by working with Rhode Island and Vermont, the NECAP Science Assessment includes an Inquiry Task at each grade which evaluates the way students make connections between science content knowledge and the nature of science and scientific thinking – an important 21st century skill. The remainder of the test includes both multiple choice and constructed response items in the three core areas of Earth & Space Science, Physical Science, and Life Science.
The NECAP science tests are based on a common set of standards known as Science Assessment Targets, developed by teams of educators from the three states. Together, the teachers identified the critical elements of the domains of science represented within their already established state science standards. The Science Targets articulate the skills, concepts, and content knowledge a student should be able to demonstrate across the grades in order to be scientifically literate by the end of high school. The Science Assessment Targets are embedded in the New Hampshire Curriculum Frameworks for K-12 Science Literacy. These revised science standards and assessment focus on preparing our students to think scientifically and become scientifically literate. The complete set of NH Curriculum Frameworks can be found at www.education.nh.gov/instruction/curriculum/science/index.htm.
NECAP results are reported using the same four achievement levels as the other content areas. These levels describe a student's proficiency on the content and skills taught in the grade spans K-4, 5-8, and
9-11. Performance at Proficient (Level 3) or Proficient with Distinction (Level 4) indicates that the student has a level of proficiency necessary to become scientifically literate by the end of their high school experience. Performance at Partially Proficient (Level 2) or Substantially Below Proficient (Level 1) suggests that additional instruction and student support is needed on content and skills.
NH Alternate Learning Progressions Assessment results were also released today. Both the NH-ALPs results and NECAP results and analysis, as well as released test items from each grade level assessment can be found at www.education.nh.gov/instruction/assessment/necap/results/index.htm.