BISMARCK - North Dakota's fourth- and eighth-graders ranked in the top five among states in a national science exam, the superintendent of public instruction announced Thursday, Oct. 27.

The students scored well above the national average on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, Kirsten Baesler said.

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The science exam, which covered earth and space sciences, physical science and life science, was given last year to 2,400 North Dakota fourth-graders and 2,300 eighth-graders. Nationally, it was given to 115,400 fotrth-graders and 110,900 eighth-graders in 46 states.

Among North Dakota fourth-graders, the average science exam score was 161, compared to a national average of 153, Baesler said. Exam results for eighth-graders were the same, with an average score of 161 and a national average of 153.

North Dakota's average scores of 161 ranked in the top five among states for fourth-graders, with New Hampshire and Virginia sharing the No. 1 spot at 165 (though Department of Defense schools posted 166), the National Center for Education Statistics reported.

Minnesota fourth-graders' average scores were 157, the NCES reported.

Among eighth-graders, Utah was first, with a top average scores of 166. Department of Defense students' average scores were also 166. New Hampshire eighth-graders were second at 165 and Vermont third at 163. Minnesota and Massachusetts eighth-graders' scores averaged 162. North Dakota and Montana eighth-graders were tied at 161, NCES reported.

The test results showed significant improvement for North Dakota's Native American fourth-graders, who saw their average score jump from 135 in 2009 to 145 in 2015, Baesler said.

The NAEP, also called the Nation's Report Card, is intended to provide a nationally representative report on student achievement in science, math and reading.

Comprehensive data on the NAEP science results can be found at the National Center for Education Statistics website: https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/.