To get a better understanding of how well students can solve complex problems and apply science to real-life scenarios, the National Assessment for Education Progress recentlyused hands-on experiments as a way to test 4th, 8th, and 12th grade students, and found that this kind of assessment gives a much more accurate reflection of student comprehension.
Results from a 2009 round of testing called The Nation’s Report Card Science in Action: Hands-On and Interactive Computer Task, examined 6,000 students—2,000 at each grade level—from across the country. Students performed tasks like testing water samples (12th grade) and assembling electric circuits (4th grade). They also participated in interactive computer tasks that simulated longer term experiments, like observing plant growth. In both scenarios, students were evaluated on their ability to perform the tasks, observe the results and draw conclusions.