The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card, indicated only 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders and 21 percent of 12th-grade students are performing solidly and demonstrating competency at or above the "proficient" level in science.
The assessment results were reported as average scores on a scale of 0 to 300, and as percentages of students testing at or above the three achievement levels of "basic," "proficient" and "advanced."
The test was administered by the National Center for Education Statistics and assessed students' knowledge and abilities in physical science, life science, and earth and space science subjects. The test was given to 156,500 fourth-graders, 151,100 eighth-graders and 11,100 12th-graders.
The tests indicated gaps in performance based on race and ethnicity, gender and school location. White male students in suburban or rural locations in all three grade levels on average scored the highest.
"These results shed light on the critical need to ensure that all students have a strong foundation in science. Science helps students further their understanding of our world, enabling them to connect ideas across disciplines and making them better problem solvers," said David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP policy.
"President Obama is committed to improving achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics … . Our nation's long-term economic prosperity depends on providing a world-class education to all students, especially in mathematics and science," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.