SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah students are ahead of their peers nationally when it comes to science, according to data released Tuesday.
Fourth-graders scored an average five points higher than the national average on 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress science tests, and eighth-graders scored an average nine points higher than their counterparts nationally, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Only 11 states performed substantially better than Utah when comparing fourth grade students and five stood above Utah in the eighth-grade category.
"We again take our hats off to our state's hard-working teachers and students who are achieving these results," said Larry K. Shumway, state superintendent of public instruction, in a news release.
Utah students are on par nationally when it comes to the performance gap between Utah's white and Hispanic students -- 32 points in fourth grade and 35 in eighth. However, the gap between students who receive free and reduced-price lunch and those who don't remains smaller than the national average with 23 points in fourth grade and 21 points in eighth.
"Utahns can be justifiably proud of the return they are getting on their investment in public education," Shumway said. "At the same time, we in Utah public education remain keenly aware of gaps in performance shown on this test and the fact that not all students are performing at the highest levels. We will continue to work on these areas."
The NAEP test was given to a statistical sampling of Utah fourth- and eighth-grade students.