September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Could You Actually Like the NGSS Assessments?

Posted: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

by Peter A’Hearn

When teachers are asked about their concerns with the Next Generation Science Standards, questions about assessments top the list. This is not surprising. State assessments have been a stick to beat teachers with for a long time now and, like a dog that has been hit with a stick, teachers have learned to cower. Our thoughts about assessments often assume that the new assessment system will be like our current uninformative and punitive assessment system. An assessment system like that would:

  • Test a whole year’s content in May
  • Not provide much information about what kids understand and what they are confused by and not provide it until months after the students have left the class.
  • Be used as a tool to ratchet up punishments on schools and teachers-especially those with large numbers of low-income students.
  • Create great pressure to “cover” the over-bloated standards before the test. (A fellow teacher in my district pointed out that to “cover” means to hide or obscure.)

So, is that what the NGSS tests will look like? The report Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards from the National Academies Press says some pretty mind blowing things about how NGSS should be assessed. If policy makers take these recommendations seriously they would represent a huge shift in how science assessment works. Some nuggets from the report:

An assessment system needs three components: Classroom formative assessment, broad scale monitoring assessment (the state testing system), and assessment of the opportunity to learn science.

Assessments need to get out of the way so that class time is spent learning science and not prepping for tests.

Classroom assessment is designed to give teachers insight into how kids are thinking about science and to provide guidance for the next steps in instruction.

Assessments might include portfolios where students can demonstrate learning through their class work products.

Assessment should be build bottom up, which means that the monitoring assessment would have wait until solid classroom assessments were implemented. The state tests would come later.

Building classroom assessments first will help to avoid “teaching to the test.”

State tests would be built around rich performance tasks that assess multiple core ideas and practices.

The state tests can’t possibly test all of the standards. There are suggestions for ways to narrow the tests so that schools can focus on depth instead of breadth.

There needs to be a system to monitor the opportunity to learn science. Do students have enough time for science? Do they have access to quality equipment and materials? Do they have qualified teachers? How much time do they spend engaged in the science practices? Do they like science and want to learn more?

These recommendations paint a picture of a very different assessment system that is much more focused on deep student learning. Teachers could actually like this kind of science assessment. Of course, states can muck it all up in the implementation. In California the Science Framework will help guide the development of assessments. Let’s hope that the Framework writers take the Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards report to heart.

 

 

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.