The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) emphasizes the need for a balanced assessment system (BAS). While there’s a lot of uncertainty about the fate of ESSA, many of us in the K–12 world understand the inherent rightness of a BAS and will persist in seeking that kind of comprehensive assessment plan. It’s the bright, elusive butterfly of assessment—we all want it, and we’re all working hard to pin it down. We’ve established our vision of a BAS, and it’s based on having a clear understanding of the goals and uses of various assessment types.
Fall conferences are in full swing for educators, and Measured Progress recently attended two regional science conferences: the California Science Education Conference (CSTA) in Palm Springs, and the first regional NSTA conference of 2016 in Minneapolis. It was incredibly energizing to meet so many science educators, and we came away from both conferences very impressed by the dedication of K–12 educators in the science community. Attendees described their shared mission to educate today’s students to know, think, and act like scientists and engineers, in line with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)*, and they offered numerous ideas about how to best fulfill that mission.
Having to select new curriculum and find appropriate NGSS-aligned assessment tools to support your transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS*) can be a challenge. According to a recent article in Education Dive, the hurdle is even higher: “Teachers should be assessing whether students get the core ideas, but they also need to know whether students understand the larger framework and the ways scientists and engineers approach questions about the world.” In other words, K-12 science education today has to go beyond confirming content knowledge, to helping students make connections across science disciplines. At the same time, students are tasked to figure out how to understand natural phenomenon and create solutions to design problems. That’s a tall order, for sure.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS*) demand a shift in how educators approach science education. This shift includes an emphasis on the integration of three dimensions: to incorporate an understanding of how scientists and engineers think and act with the learning progression of science content. Students need opportunities to engage in learning that blend all three dimensions of the standards:
Measured Progress is really excited about our new partnership with Activate Learning, the publisher of IQWST (Investigating & Questioning our World through Science & Technology). Activate Learning is one of the leading middle school science curricula providers in the US. Their inquiry-based approach engages students in doing science. The partnership was announced on March 31, 2016 at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference in Nashville. Since then, we’ve been working side-by-side on a correlation document to show how our two products, IQWST and STEM Gauge®, come together in the classroom to provide a complete solution for full NGSS* alignment.
Recently Parcc, Inc. reported student performance differences on the Spring 2015 PARCC® assessments based on the mode of testing: online or paper. Benjamin Herold summarized the findings in two recent Education Week articles. He reported that the pattern of lower student performance for those taking the computer-based tests was most pronounced in English Language Arts and middle- and high-school mathematics (Herold, 2016a). Parcc, Inc. has not yet released research evidence or announced a plan to conduct research that may explain the mode differences. Herold reported that Parcc, Inc. is asking participating states to examine the differences and draw conclusions appropriate for their context.
Limitations of “Off-the-Shelf” District Assessments
Smarter tests. Less testing time. Quality data. Important needs that we frequently hear about when it comes to K–12 assessment. All assessment companies want to bring you products that meet these needs while delivering accurate results. No one wants to set students up for failure or waste time; we want testing that gives districts and teachers accurate measures of learning to inform instruction.
Bridging the Instructional Gap
Five million students across 11 states and the District of Columbia took the PARCC® tests in 2014–2015. These assessments are intended to measure the extent to which students are meeting the expectations of new, more rigorous college- and career-ready standards. Many participating states’ districts, schools, students, and parents were disappointed by lower-than-expected results from the exams. The message to these states was clear: Schools need to address the gap between instructional strategies and the high expectations of the standards measured by the PARCC tests.