Achieve Gives Guidance to States on Developing Well Rounded Science Assessments

As states sort out their science standards — many adopting the Next Generation Science Standards and even more going at the work on their own — all of them are expected to adhere to "high-quality" summative science assessments that meet federal requirements spelled out in Title 1 Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Achieve, one of the organizations behind the development of NGSS, recently released criteria that can be used by states to develop those grade-level tests and know that they meet federal expectations. Finding success, a new report advised, will require becoming sticklers in three areas:

  • Using "intentional design": making sure not just that the assessment items mesh with the standards but also that they meet the priorities set by the individual state, that decision-making can be backed up by evidence and that the items are accessible to all students, among other aspects.
  • Supporting design decisions and rationales through evidence: In other words, documentation of the assessment development process to make decisions and rationale "explicit and transparent."
  • Reflecting more comprehensive learning goals: It's no longer sufficient to include one test question per learning standard; tasks may touch on all or parts of multiple standards, requiring reconsideration of "content centrality and complexity."

Achieve's new document is intended to be used by educators and assessment experts as they develop or evaluate their statewide summative assessments against their science standards. It was developed with input from the writers of the National Research Council's A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS.

The guidance is grounded in three elements: an "evolving understanding of how best to assess multi-dimensional standards"; the research that lays out what all students should know and be able to do in science; and the lessons learned through the processes undertaken by pioneering states as they developed their "three-dimensional assessments."

The criteria document is openly available on Achieve's website. Access to the organization's other supports for its science standards are on the NGSS website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.