Developing Performance-Based Assessments, Grades K-5: Elementary

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Providing them with a menu could also make it easier to ensure coherence across grade levels and to provide curriculum materials aimed at helping students meet key performance expectations. Each option brings different advantages and disadvantages. Selecting the best option for a given state, district, or school context will depend on at least two other decisions.

The first is whether to distribute the standards to be tested across the classroom-embedded component or in the on-demand component of the monitoring assessment: that is, which performance expectations would be covered in the classroom-embedded component and which in the on-demand component. The second is the extent to which there is state, district, or local school control over which performance expectations to cover.

There is no strong a priori basis on which to recommend one option over the others, and thus states will need to use other decision criteria. We suggest two key questions that could guide a choice among possible strategies for representation of the standards: Will the monitoring assessment be used at the school, district, or state level? Which components of the monitoring assessment system classroom embedded and on demand will have choices associated with them?

Indicators of Opportunity to Learn. The work of identifying indicators of progress toward major goals for education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics STEM —is already underway and is described in a recent report Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K Education National Research Council, b.

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The report describes a proposed set of indicators for K STEM education that includes the goal of monitoring the extent to which state science assessments measure core concepts and practices and are in line with the new framework. The report includes a. A program of inspection of science classrooms could serve an auditing function, with a subset of schools sampled for an annual visit.

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The sample of schools could be randomly chosen, following a sampling design that accurately represents state-level science program characteristics. Schools with low scores on monitoring tests or with low test scores relative to the performance expected based on other measures, such as achievement in other subject areas, socioeconomic status, etc.

Inspection would include documentation of resources e. Peer review by highly qualified teachers e. The results of surveys used at selected grade levels together with data collected through a large-scale system component could also provide valuable background information and other data, and such surveys could be conducted online. Student surveys would have to be individually anonymous:.

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Student surveys could also be linked to teachers or to student demographic characteristics e. If parallel versions of some questions are included on teacher and student questionnaires, then those responses could be compared. Surveys for teachers could include questions about time spent in professional development or other professional learning opportunities. The time provided for teacher collaboration and quality professional development designed to improve science teaching practices could also be monitored.

The collected work could be rated for purposes of monitoring and improvement. Alternatively, the work could be used to provide an incentive for teachers to carefully consider aspects of the NGSS and the three-dimensional learning described in the framework see Mitchell et al. Such a system of evaluation of the quality and demand of student assignments was used in Chicago and clearly showed that levels of achievement were closely tied to the intellectual demands of the work assigned to students Newmann et al.

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As stated, a comprehensive science assessment system will include some measures that are closely linked to instruction and used primarily in classrooms for both formative and summative purposes see Chapter 4. It will also include some measures designed to address specific monitoring purposes see Chapter 5 , including some that may be used as part of accountability policies. We recognize that adopting this approach would be a substantial change from what is currently done in most states and would require some careful consideration of how to assemble the components of an assessment system so that they provide useful and usable information for the wide variety of assessment purposes.

External on-demand assessments are more familiar to most people than other types of assessments. Moving from reliance on a single test to a comprehensive science assessment system to meet the NGSS goals is a big change. It will require policy makers to reconsider the role that assessment plays in the system: specifically, policy makers will need to consider which purposes require on-demand assessments that are given to all students in the state and which do not.

We note that, for many purposes, there is no need to give the same test to all students in the state: matrix sampling, as discussed in Chapter 5 , is a legitimate, viable, and often preferable option. And for other purposes, assessments that are more closely connected to classrooms and a specific curriculum are likely to be better choices than on-demand assessments. Several connected sets of questions can guide thinking about the components of an assessment system:.

The answers to these interrelated questions will help policy makers design an assessment system that meets their priorities. In the following two sections we present a rough sketch of two alternative models for an assessment system. Currently, in most states, a single external large-scale assessment—designed or selected by the state—is given for monitoring purposes once in each grade span in elementary, middle, and high school. The assessment is composed predominantly of questions that assess factual recall.


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The assessment is given to all students and used to produce individual scores. Scores are aggregated to produce results at the group level. Classroom assessment receives relatively little attention in the current system, although this may vary considerably across schools depending on the resources available. Although this is only a general sketch of the typical science assessment system in this country, it is not the type of system that we are recommending.

As discussed above, the design of an assessment system should be based on a carefully devised plan that considers the purpose of each of the system components and how they will serve to improve student learning. The design should consider the types of evidence that are needed to achieve the intended purposes and. In conceptualizing the system, we consider four critical aspects:. In the default system sketched above, results from large-scale standardized tests are used both for monitoring student learning and for program evaluation. The questions it includes signify the type of tasks students should be able to answer, which are not aligned with science learning envisioned in the framework and the NGSS.

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Test scores provide little information to guide instructional decision making. The examples in the next two sections provide only a rough sketch of two alternative systems—not all of the details that would need to be developed and worked out prior to implementation—but one can clearly see their differences with the current default model.

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In Chapter 5 , we describe two approaches to on-demand assessments mixed-item formats with written responses and mixed-item formats with performance tasks and three approaches to classroom-embedded assessment that could be used for monitoring purposes replacement units, collections of performance tasks, and portfolios of work samples and work projects. In the system examples below, we explore ways to make use of these options in designing the monitoring assessment component of a system.

We assume that the assessment system would incorporate the advice offered in Systems for State Science Assessment National Research Council, for designing a coherent system. That is, the system should be horizontally, vertically, and developmentally coherent. Vertically, all levels of the education system—classroom, school, school district, and state—are based on a shared vision of the goals for science education, the purposes and uses of assessment, and what constitutes competent performance. For further details about developing a comprehensive, coherent science assessment system, see National Research Council, We also assume that states and local education agencies would adopt NGSS-aligned curricula that incorporate the vision of science education conceptualized in the framework and would ensure that the system includes high-quality instructional materials and resources including classroom assessments , that they would design suitable means of reporting the results of the assessments to appropriate audiences, and that teachers and administrators would receive comprehensive professional development so that they are well prepared for full implementation of a new system.

Furthermore, we assume that available resources and professional development support the use of formative assessment as a regular part of instruction, relying on methods such as those described in Chapter 4. These features should be part of all science assessment systems. In the descriptions below, we focus on strategies for making use of the types of classroom and monitoring assessment strategies discussed in Chapters 4 and 5 of this report.

In this model, the monitoring assessment would be given once in each grade span elementary, middle, and high school, e. The first component would be one of the on-demand assessment options we suggest in Chapter 5. In this approach, a test that makes use of mixed-item formats including some constructed-response tasks such as those currently used for the New England Common Assessment Program or on the New York state assessments or that were used in the past for the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, see Chapter 5 , would be used as an on-demand component.

The second component would include several classroom-embedded assessments incorporated into replacement units see Chapter 5. For this model, the on-demand component would be administered in a way that makes use of both the fixed-form and matrix-sampling administration approaches. All students at a tested grade would take a common test form that uses selected-response and constructed-response questions including some technology-enhanced questions, if feasible. Every student would also have to complete one of several performance assessment tasks, administered through a matrix-sampling design.

The common, fixed-form test would yield score reports. Both parts of the monitoring assessment would be developed by the state.

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The state would determine when the on-demand assessment is given, but the district or other local education agency would make decisions about when the classroom-embedded assessment components would be scheduled and could select from among a set of options for the topics. Both parts of the monitoring assessment would be scored at the state level, although the state might decide to use teachers as scorers.

Although the assessments in the classroom-embedded component could be administered in a standardized way, one complication of this design is that it would be difficult to keep the assessments secure since they would be administered at different times of the school year.