MERRIMACK — About 64% of local students scored below proficient in the science portion of the New Hampshire Statewide Assessment System exam.

The test, which was distributed during the 2018-2019 school year to elementary and middle school students, assesses proficiency in math, language arts and science.

“Science was one of our lower scores,” John Fabrizio, assistant superintendent, told the school board last week.

The statewide average for proficiency in science is 39%. Merrimack students scored 34%.

According to Fabrizio, a combined total of 64% of students scored in the lower two categories for non-proficient in science, while 27% scored proficient and no students scored above proficient.

He said efforts already have been made to improve science scores district-wide.

“We have a revised science curriculum that we have also just begun that we continue to look at and revise,” Fabrizio said.

Other test scores in math and language arts were above the state average, according to Fabrizio.

In language arts, 57% of Merrimack students were proficient compared to the state average of 56%. For math, 54% of local students were proficient compared to the state average of 48%.

He stressed that this is the second year of implementation for a revised math curriculum, which seems to driven improvement.

“I am feeling good about the math,” said Andy Schneider, school board member. However, Schneider said the science scores are a red flag and raise some concerns for him.

“There is also something fundamental in science that we are missing that the rest of the state has picked up on,” said Schneider, questioning how so many local students could be below proficient in science.

“We continue to look at the next generation standards for science,” Fabrizio said.

Science is inquiry-based, said Superintendent Mark McLaughlin, adding the new science curriculum is also inquiry-based, which should be beneficial.

“This is not the only assessment that we use to gauge student progress,” stressed McLaughlin, adding the district should not hang its head.

“I would say this is not a data point for panic,” said school board chairman Shannon Barnes.

She said some high school students in Merrimack are winning Science Olympiad events or robotics competitions, and others are pursuing college studies in engineering or science.

Fabrizio said students have been faced with the challenge of four different assessment tests in the past 10 years, as well as an online format.

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