Last year, Montana students in fourth, eighth and tenth grade were tested on their proficiency in science and now the results are out. According to Missoula County Public School Superintendent Mark Thane, students in the district outperformed the statewide average.

"At grade 4, on the Science Criterion and Reference Testing, 78 percent of Missoula students tested as proficient or advanced compared to 71 percent in the state of Montana," Thane said. "At eighth grade 71 percent of Missoula students were proficient or advanced and 66 percent of students statewide were proficient or advanced."

The scores plunged for high school students: only 53 percent of Missoula sophomores were proficient or advanced. That seems low for a test which is designed to make sure students have basic skills in the field, however, the statewide average was worse, with only 43 percent of students at or above proficiency. Thane says part of that low grade in Missoula is to be expected.

"I will attach one caveat to the high school, the area where we performed less well at high school, largely, is the physical science area, and that makes a lot of sense sense to us, because we don't teach physics until kids hit the junior level in high school. We do earth and space science as freshmen and then we do biology as sophomores."

The testing did highlight a major gap between Native American students in Missoula schools and their peers: While there was almost no difference in fourth grade, Thane says by eighth grade (57 percent) and tenth grade (33 percent) the average score for Native American students was 18 points below the Missoula average.

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