Only 36 percent of Pennsylvania 11th graders met state standards in science, test results show.

In the state's first science assessment, released today, 81.5 percent of fourth graders made the benchmark, as did 52.7 percent of eighth graders.

The highest-performing schools in each category statewide were: 11th grade, Philadelphia's Julia R. Masterman, 86.8 percent; eighth grade, Charles F. Patton Middle in the Unionville Chadds Ford District, 89.9 percent.

In fourth grade, 11 schools in the area posted scores of 100 percent.

African American students statewide scored on average only half as well as white students, with 29.2 percent scoring proficient or higher; 62.9 percent of white students met the mark.

The results were released on the same day that international tests showed American students trailing other countries in fourth- and eighth-grade math and science.

Praising the results in the lower grades, Gerald Zahorchak, secretary of the state Department of Education, issued a statement saying that the test results showed the need for more rigorous high school science education. "We are sending the large majority of our students to college or into the workforce without the tools to compete in our science-rich world," he said.

He called for instituting statewide graduation tests, which he said would help set a higher standard.

An attempt by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education to institute statewide tests in math, language arts, social studies and science was put on hold in July for at least a year by the state legislatute. The proposal was vigorously opposed by many school boards and was unpopular with legislators. The education department has continued to develop the tests and a model curriculum to go with them.

The scores reflect student performance on tests given for the first time in the spring of 2008. The science test will now be added to yearly tests in math, reading and writing. The tests are required by the No Child Left Behind federal law, which went into effect in 2002.

Statewide, 62 schools had fourth grades with a perfect score.

In the Philadelphia area, fourth graders at the following schools had all students scoring proficient or higher: Gilbertsville, Boyertown; Buckingham, Central Bucks; Wrightstown, Council Rock; Charlestown, Great Valley; Blair Mill and Crooked Billet, Hatboro-Horsham; Worcester, Methacton; Kennedy Crossan Academics Plus, Philadelphia; Salford Hills, Souderton; Penn Wood, West Chester; and Souderton Collaborative Charter.

Among eighth graders, along with Charles Patton Middle School, other area schools in the top 10 statewide were Tohickon Middle, Central Bucks; Newtown Middle, Council Rock; Great Valley Middle, Great Valley; Julia R. Masterman, Philadelphia; Valley Forge Middle, Tredyffrin/Easttown and Laboratory Charter in Philadelphia.

Among 11th graders, along with Julia R. Masterman other area high schools in the top 10 statewide were New Hope-Solebury, New Hope-Solebury; Harriton, Lower Merion; Central, Philadelphia; Conestoga, Tredyffrin/Easttown and Unionville, Unionville-Chadds Ford.

Zahorchak lamented the lackluster performance of American students on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which assesses the math and science achievement of 4th and 8th grade students from around the world. U.S. 4th graders dropped to ninth in 2007 from sixth in 2003. Among eighth graders, U.S. students fell to 11th in 2007 from ninth in 2003.

Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 610-627-2649 or