Oklahoma students score well in many areas but in science they're just average -- and they've been that way for many years.

The Nation's Report Card on science measures students' knowledge of earth, physical and life sciences in grades 4, 8 and 12. Nationally, the Associated Press reports, fourth-graders have increased their scores from results in 2000 and 1996. There was no overall improvement among eighth-graders, and high school seniors actually fell behind.

In Oklahoma, a third of the fourth-graders scored below a basic achievement level, 42 percent scored at a basic achievement level, 24 percent scored at a proficient level and 1 percent scored at the advanced level, according to the Associated Press account of the testing.

Forty-three percent of Oklahoma's eighth-graders scored below basic achievement, 32 percent scored at the basic level, 23 percent scored proficient, and 2 percent scored advanced.

The AP reports Oklahoma male students had an average score that was higher than that of female students by 5 points. Black students scored on average 35 points less than white students. Hispanic students had an average score that was 24 points lower than white students.

While we can take pride in some of the youngsters' scores, the dip in 12th-graders' performance should be cause for some alarm. Oklahoma's future role in a world of science and technology depends on encouraging a generation of youngsters to take a rigorous high school curriculum filled with math and science.

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