The average science scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students in Defense Department schools topped the charts in a 2015 national assessment, equaling or beating those of participating states.

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed DoD students' scores also improved since the last assessments, as did the percentage of students at DoD-run schools who reached or exceeded the NAEP's "proficient" level in science.

"The results clearly show our students are on their way to becoming critical consumers of scientific information," Department of Defense Education Activity director Thomas M. Brady said in a statement announcing the results. The performance, he added, "reflects the commitment of our students and teachers to being college and career ready."

This news comes a month after DoDEA announced that the average combined score on the 2016 SAT was nearly 30 points higher than the national average. The SAT scores improved in all the subject areas, and the DoDEA scores were the highest in five years. 

By the numbers

NAEP tests cover a variety of subjects, with main assessments given periodically to students in grades 4, 8 and 12. Representative samples are used to determine state scores, but every DoDEA fourth- and eight-grader takes the assessment.

The science assessment measures students' knowledge of three broad content areas – physical science, life science and Earth and space sciences – along with their understanding of science practices and principles.

Among the 2015 science results for DoDEA fourth-graders:

  • The average score of 166 was 13 points higher than the nationwide public-school average (153) and best among all jurisdictions, edging out Virginia and New Hampshire (165).
  • The performance gap between white students and those from other ethnic groups was not significantly different from the 2009 test. Black students scored 25 points lower than white students in both years, while Hispanic students scored 11 points lower in 2015 compared with 14 points lower in 2009. 
  • The average score was seven points higher than in 2009, when fourth-graders last took the test.
  • 50 percent performed at or above the NAEP "proficient" level, up from 40 percent in 2009.
  • 90 percent performed at or above the NAEP "basic" level, compared with 84 percent in 2009.
  • Male and female students had the same average score.

Among the science results for DoDEA eighth-graders:

  • The average score was also 166, 13 points higher than the national public-school average and tied for first among jurisdictions with Utah.
  • The average score was five points higher than in 2011 and three points up from 2009.
  • 46 percent performed at or above the proficient level, up from 40 percent in 2011 and 2009.
  • 84 percent performed at or above the basic level, up from 77 percent in 2011 and 78 percent in 2009.
  • As with the fourth-graders, the performance gaps between white students and other ethnic groups was not significantly different from what it was in 2009: 22 points lower for black students compared with 26 points in 2009, and 11 points lower for Hispanic students, compared with 15 points in 2009.
  • Male students averaged a 168, while female students averaged a 163.

Brady said DoDEA will work to continue to narrow achievement gaps, and officials "are invested in ensuring equity for all students."

The NAEP project is carried out by the commissioner of education statistics, who heads the National Center for Education Statistics in the Education Department.

Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at .

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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