Published: May 11, 2007

Are States Ready to Be Evaluated in Science?

The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) currently requires states to measure students' progress in reading and mathematics. Based on their results, low-performing schools or districts may face sanctions. Beginning in the 2007-08 school year, science performance also will be gauged under NCLB, with states being directed to test students at least once in each of three grade spans (grades 3-5, grades 6-9, and grades 10-12) each year. *

Most Recent Year that States Updated Science Standards

But Junlei Li, in a 2006 Education Week Commentary, questions states' readiness when it comes to science standards and science assessments. ("Not Ready for Science Tests," April 26, 2006.) This concern is echoed in the report "The State of State Science Standards," released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in 2005. The report assigns 15 states failing grades and 16 states a letter grade of C or D for the content of their science standards. This Stat of the Week looks at where states currently stand in terms of the age of their science content standards and the alignment of their science assessments to those standards.

Science Assessments Aligned to State Standards

Accountability pressures have led some state officials to revisit their standards documents. ("As States Feel Pressed to Revisit Standards, Calls Are Being Renewed to Tighten Them," Oct. 18, 2006.) The EPE Research Center examined the dates when states last updated their science content standards. It was reported in Quality Counts 2007 that only a handful of states (Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Tennessee) recently updated their science standards. Almost half of the states had science standards that were more than two years old, that is, updated prior to the 2004-05 school year. Seven of those had standards dating from the 1990's, with the oldest science standards being in Delaware (1994-95), Florida, and New York (both from 1995-96).

Also, at the time of the EPE 2006 annual state policy survey, many states still did not have science assessments that were aligned to their state science standards at every school level (i.e. elementary, middle, and high school.) Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 25 states had science assessments aligned to state science standards at all levels. Ten states had science assessments for one or two school levels, and 16 states did not have science assessments aligned to their state standards.

For more information about state science standards and assessment, go to Education Counts.

* It is still being debated whether science assessment results should be included to calculate adequate yearly progress (AYP).