Barely half of city eighth-graders passed statewide science exams last year — leaving scores relatively unchanged in the subject over nearly a decade.
The results showed 53.2 percent of eighth-graders scoring proficiently on the exam last year, compared to about 54 percent of eighth-graders who passed the tests in 2003.
In 2008, the year before the curriculum was changed in eighth-grade science, 51.5 percent of kids passed the exams.
By contrast, city fourth-graders — the only other group tested on the statewide exams — continued to make steady gains, with 83 percent making the grade in science last year.
That’s up 10 percentage points since 2007 — the year the curriculum was changed in that grade — and up 33 percentage points since 2003, according to city records.
The gap in results highlighted a longstanding decline in performance from the elementary to middle-school grades — something educators attribute in part to the lack of emphasis on science in the middle grades.
“Due to the gap in testing, middle schools don’t put much emphasis on science class and the allocation of instructional periods dedicated to science instruction until eighth grade,” said Derick Spaulding, principal of Emolior Academy in The Bronx.
He said he was fighting that trend by having licensed science teachers in every grade between sixth and eighth.
Spaulding also is participating in a quality initiative in 18 middle schools that emphasizes reading comprehension across all subjects.
Other educators said much of the gap in performance was attributable to the varying difficulty of the exams themselves.
They said the content of the fourth-grade exams was far easier to predict while the eighth-grade test was more difficult because it covered four years’ worth of science.
“I think one of the problems with that test is it’s not a real accurate representation of what the kids are learning in the eighth grade,” said Ray Cottrell, an eighth-grade earth-science teacher at IS 24 in Great Kills, Staten Island. “The eighth-grade test is really a reflection of what they’ve learned since the fourth grade.”