COLUMBIA — Missouri students appear to be doubling down on their science studies.
Students across the state improved the most on the science portion of the Missouri Assessment Program tests, according to data for the 2012-13 school year released Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Missouri students are tested in communication arts and math in third through eighth grades and science in fifth and eighth grades. Students take mandatory end-of-course exams in English II, Algebra I, Biology I and government.
In 2012, about 52 percent of students were proficient or advanced in science — meaning students either met or surpassed the academic targets set by the state. This year, about 59 percent were proficient or advanced. Since 2009, the number of students who either were proficient or advanced in science increased by almost 11 percent.
The percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the Biology I end-of-course exam was 74.7 percent, up from 55.1 percent in 2012.
Mike Szydlowski, the science coordinator for Columbia Public Schools, said the improvement can be attributed to the way students are tested. Content-related questions test a student's ability to memorize, he said.
"The performance event, however, tests the student's ability to analyze and interpret data, a far more beneficial skill," Szydlowski wrote in an email. "We are quite happy the scores continue to rise.
"However, we are more concerned with getting ready for the more rigorous and meaningful standards associated with the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards," he said. "Those standards emphasize problem-solving skills, which are essential to everyone's future."
The data are broken down demographically, and minority groups — such as Hispanics, blacks and Native Americans — and students eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches showed the most improvement in science.
Hispanic students improved the most. Compared to 2009, about 14 percent more were proficient or advanced. The jump leaves them at 46.5 percent, below the 59.1 percent for all students in 2013 and far below the percentage of white students, 66.1 percent, and Asian/Pacific Islander students, 68.8 percent.
The data also show:
- The overall percentage of those scoring proficient or advanced in math decreased from 55.5 percent in 2012 to 53.9 percent in 2013.
- The overall percentage of third-through-eighth-grade students in communication arts didn't change from 2012, when it was 55.6 percent.
- The percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in English II decreased 4 points from its 2012 score of 73 percent.
Columbia Public Schools will hold a meeting to discuss district data on Thursday, and the data will be released to the public on Friday morning.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.