WASHINGTON – Hispanic students in Florida scored higher on a national science test than the national average for Hispanic students,according to a report issued Wednesday.
The 2009 Nation’s Report Card,released by the National Center for Education Statistics,also showed that a majority of Florida’s fourth- and eighth-grade Hispanic students are at or above the basic achievement level in science.
“The trends in Florida have been spectacular for our Hispanic population,” said Mary Jane Tappen,deputy chancellor for K-12 Curriculum Instruction and Student Services at the Florida Department of Education. “They keep getting stronger,and their achievement trends have been getting bigger in the last years.”
Fourth-grade Hispanic students in Florida scored an average of 144 in science,higher than the Hispanic student national average of 130. Nationwide,fourth-grade students in all demographics scored an average of 150.
The students were tested in physical science,life science and earth and space sciences. Basic-level questions included changes of states of matter,basic needs and life cycles of plants and animals,changes in shadows during the day and changes in weather.
Seventy percent of Hispanic fourth-graders in the state scored at or above the basic achievement level.
At the eighth-grade level,Hispanic students in Florida scored an average of 139,above the national average of 131.
The basic-level questions asked eighth-graders to recognize a class of chemical compounds by its properties; to identify levels of organization within cells,multicellular organisms and ecosystems,and to describe how fossils and rock formations can be used as evidence to infer events in Earth’s history.
Just over half of the Hispanic eighth-graders in Florida scored at or above the basic level in science.
Last year,the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 4,which will require students to pass end-of-course exams in math and science. The law will also require students to take biology and either chemistry or physics and another science course to graduate from high school.
“The greatest thing for students is access to rigorous math and science content,” Tappen said. “They can’t learn more if they’re not provided access to it.”
Educators in Indian River are preparing for the rigorous new program.
“We have been beefing up instructional delivery with biology and other sciences,aligning it to the next generation’s standards,” said Teresa Rockwood,Indian River’s district science curriculum specialist. “There is going to have to be an innovative fresh look at science instruction in order for all students to be successful in those end of course exams.”