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CMS 4th Graders Tops In Science, 8th Graders Lag

A national report card out Thursday shows CMS 4th graders ahead of their peers in similar urban districts when it comes to science. CMS tops Austin, Miami-Dade, Atlanta and more than a dozen other districts included in the study. However, CMS doesn't top the list in science for the other student level that received the test - 8th graders. "We're not far behind, but this is not about us being ahead or behind," says CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman. "This is about having all of our kids proficient and we are not where we need to be, particularly for 8th grade." Barely half of the district's 8th graders performed at or above a basic skill level on the science test administered in 2009, compared to 71 percent of CMS 4th graders. Gorman says the 4th graders have an advantage because in 2007, the district tripled the amount of time elementary schools spent teaching science. Today's 8th graders spent little or no time on science when they were in 4th grade. The CMS board of education recently voted to extend the elementary school day by 45 minutes, much of which Gorman says will be spent on science skills. RACIAL DISPARITIES African American students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools lag far behind their white peers on science skills. Some 83 percent of white 8th graders in CMS scored at least a basic proficiency level in science, while barely one-third of black 8th graders make that grade. Other urban districts with similar racial makeup across the nation also saw wide disparities on the science test, but CMS Superintendent Gorman says that's no comfort. "We gotta do a better job of offering opportunities and educating our African American students in science because they're not as competitive as our other students," says Gorman. Hispanic 8th graders also lag on the National Assessment of Education Progress science test, which was administered in 2009. Gorman says budget cuts have limited the amount of district support available to elementary and middle school science programs.