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Below are sample questions from the 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress science exam. Following each question is the percentage of students who received the highest score, "complete,'' for their answers.

Grade 4

Explain why many stars look smaller than the Sun even though they are really bigger than the Sun. (75 percent)

Grade 8

A group of students took potato salad made with mayonnaise to a picnic on a very hot day. Explain how eating the potato salad could cause food poisoning. Describe something that could be done to the potato salad to prevent the people who eat it from getting food poisoning. (10 percent)

Grade 12

A mother with attached earlobes and a father with free earlobes have 5 children--4 boys and 1 girl. All of the children have the father's type of earlobes. What can be predicted about the genotype of the father? Construct a genetic diagram to support your prediction. What additional information, if any, would you need to determine the genotype of the father? Explain. (3 percent)

Ordering information for the "NAEP 1996 Science Report Card for the Nation and the States'' is available from the National Library of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20208-5641; (800) 424-1616. The report is also available on the World Wide Web at

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education.

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