Looking Back at CCSS
Thanks for the 2015 CORElaborate posts about Common Core assessment. Many stories have helped to demystify new testing systems. In the meantime, a parallel mystery has been developing around the Next Generation Science Standards. Science teachers who’ve been eavesdropping on the CCSS assessment stories have gleaned some useful lessons from the Puget Sound bloggers:
- Keep testing in perspective – Tom White, Alisa Louie
- Make the assessment system work for you – Emily Wojciechowicz, Chris Gustafson
- Prepare students with practice and a growth mindset – Hallie Mills, Nathan Sun-Kleinberger
Looking Ahead to NGSS
(turn on the creepy sound effects and the fog machine) Ahh, but the future is still cloudy in the NGSS Crystal Ball. “Very well…there is much wisdom in your CCSS blog posts,” my science friends might say. “But what of our future with the NGSS assessment system?” One thing is clear…they have questions, and they want answers (OK, that’s two things):
- Timeline–When will the NGSS system arrive?
- Vision–What will the NGSS tests look like?
- Preparation–Will we get any practice materials in plenty of time to prepare?
There is plenty of good news here, and more help is on the way.
Timeline: The earliest that NGSS testing will occur in Washington state is spring 2018. It’s nice to have time to develop and refine classroom formative assessment opportunities that reflect the 3-dimensional performance expectations. I don’t want to be one who waits until the first year of testing to get going. It takes time to get ready; we have time to get ready; but we don’t have time to waste.
Vision: When people ask what the NGSS tests will look like, they usually want to know about the state tests. But many people also want to know what kinds of tasks and questions students should routinely get for classroom learning and assessment. A little show & tell might help out here. (Warning! Small number of examples ahead…not a large, random sample at all.)
Sample Item 1:
Inherited traits, like your eye color, are primarily determined by: A) Chromosomes in the nucleus; B) Enzymes in the cytoplasm; C) Proteins expressed by your genes; D) Phosphates between ribosomes
Sample Item 2:
Compare the temperature scatterplots for Minneapolis, MN, and Las Vegas, NV. Consider the difference between the cities in the average monthly high temperature during the hottest month and the difference between the cities in average monthly high temperature during the coldest month. Construct an argument to evaluate the claim that temperature differences observed in the scatterplots can be accounted for by differences in latitude. In your argument, account for the differences between cities in terms of the heating from solar energy or the transfer of thermal energy.
Item 1 was taken from a recent high school Biology Final Exam. It assesses content knowledge only (no Science Practices, no Crosscutting Concepts), and does not invite high-level thinking. Item 2 was taken from the recently released “NGSS Sample Classroom Asssessment Tasks” (middle school). It assesses all three dimensions of NGSS, demands higher-level thought, close reading, statistical analysis, and explanatory writing. Although these items have different purposes, they present the clear contrast between an orientation to science facts (Item 1) and authentic science practices (Item 2). See the May post, “Two-fer: Align Existing Assessments to Learn NGSS,” for details about aligning items like these.
Preparation: Yikes! If I want to prepare my students, I’m going to want a lot more than a few sample items, right? And I’m going to want to study and do lots of them myself so that I can select some items that work well with my existing science units. Over time I will want to work with my colleagues to see how students respond to these kinds of items, and how we may need to tweak lessons and units. This will take time; thankfully we have the time; but it’s obvious that we don’t have time to waste.
The good news is that middle school and high school examples are already available (see resource list below), with elementary examples in the works (summer/fall 2015?), and more examples coming periodically. In addition to example assessment items, multi-state projects are in the works to make available examples of lesson sequences that prepare students for items like these. That’s what I really want–clear connections between instruction and assessment. I need resources, not a crystal ball.
NGSS Sample Classroom Asssessment Tasks – Each task has about eight items in a scenario format. Strong reading, writing, mathematics connections. Lots of supporting information. Middle school and high school tasks available now, elementary tasks are in the works.
Example Unit Assessment – A five-item test for a two-week middle school ecosystems unit. The test focuses on a small set of NGSS performance expectations. This link takes you to the unit test and other tools used to make the test.
Next Generation Science Assessment – These example items use images, video, and data tables to pose explanation problems to students. Answers require explanatory writing and drawings.