Explore Results for the 2019 NAEP Science Assessment

In 2019, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science assessment was administered to representative samples of fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students across the nation. NAEP science was administered as a digitally based assessment on tablet and as a paper-based assessment in 2019. Students were randomly assigned to take either the digitally based or paper-based assessment and reported results are based on the combined student performance on both versions of the assessment. The assessment measured students’ science knowledge as well as their ability to engage in scientific inquiry and to conduct scientific investigations in real-world contexts. Students also answered survey questions asking about their opportunities to learn about and engage in science inside and outside of school.

How Did Students Perform in Science?

In 2019, the average science score for the nation was lower by 2 points at grade 4 compared to 2015. Average scores at grades 8 and 12 were not significantly different compared to the scores in 2015. At grades 4 and 8, average scores were higher compared to 2009, while the average score at grade 12 was not significantly different.

The average science score for fourth-grade students in 2019 was 2 points lower compared to 2015, while the average score was higher by 1 point compared to 2009.
Figure | Average scores in NAEP science for fourth-grade students: 2009, 2015, and 2019
Display As
Scalescore0406080100120140160180200220240260300Assessment Year'09'15'19

A summary of results from the most recent science assessments can be found in the Report Card Highlights. Download a summary of the science results.

Read the Highlights

Detailed Science Assessment Results

More detailed science assessment results are available throughout this Report Card.

About the Science Assessment

How NAEP Assesses Science

The science assessment measures students’ familiarity of the natural world, their understanding of concepts, principles, laws, and theories of science and their ability to engage in scientific inquiry in real-world contexts.

  • The NAEP science assessment framework specifies the science content assessed at grades 4, 8, and 12. The assessment measures three content areas—Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth and Space Sciences. In addition to an overall average scale score, results are also reported as average subscale scores for each content area. Because the content area subscales are developed independently, content area scores cannot be compared to one another or to the overall score. The assessment also measures four science practices—Identifying Science Principles, Using Science Principles, Using Scientific Inquiry, and Using Technological Design—that assess students’ ability to demonstrate their scientific knowledge and skills in each of the three content areas.
  • The assessment was administered as a digitally based assessment on tablets and as a paper-based assessment. Students were randomly assigned to take either the digitally based or paper-based assessment. Digitally based assessment questions included embedded tools for solving scientific problems as well as for performing simulated science experiments and investigations. The digitally based assessment consisted of standalone, discrete questions, and scenario-based tasks comprising a sequence of questions that are related to a single scenario. Explore sample standalone questions and scenario-based tasks from the 2019 NAEP science assessment.
  • The DBA assessment (standalone questions and scenario-based tasks) consisted of selected-response  and constructed-response  questions. Examples of selected-response question formats include single- and multiple-selection multiple choice, inline choice, zone, matching, and interactive questions. Short constructed-response questions require students to write a brief response that, for example, explains the solution to a problem. Extended constructed-response questions have more parts for students to answer, requiring students to provide more than a single response or short verbal communication.
  • In 2011, NAEP conducted a special administration of the science assessment at grade 8 in an effort to link the NAEP results to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), so that states could compare the performance of their students with that of students in other countries. The 2019 assessment results at grade 8 are compared to results from the 2011 special assessment in addition to results from the 2015 and 2009 assessments.
Assessment Design and Administration:
Assessment periodJanuary to March 2019January to March 2019January to March 2019
Student participation30,40031,40026,400
School participation1,0901,0701,760
Cognitive testing time60 minutes60 minutes60 minutes
Reported results Based on combined student performance on paper-based and digitally based assessmentsBased on combined student performance on paper-based and digitally based assessmentsBased on combined student performance on paper-based and digitally based assessments
Survey questionnairesAdministered to students, teachers, and school administratorsAdministered to students, teachers, and school administratorsAdministered to students and school administrators

The Story of NAEP

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a continuing and nationally representative measure of trends in academic achievement of U.S. elementary and secondary students in various subjects. It is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what our nation's students know and can do in select subjects. It was first administered in 1969 to measure student achievement nationally. Teachers, principals, parents, policymakers, and researchers all use NAEP results to assess progress and develop ways to improve education in the United States.