May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

New CA Science Test: What You Should Know

Posted: Thursday, January 12th, 2017

by Lisa Hegdahl

updated May 8, 2017

Since the California State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, CSTA and its partners across the state have tried vigilantly to get the message out that the NGSS are like nothing any of us have ever seen before in Science education. The focus thus far has been on the structure of NGSS and the conceptual shifts in the classroom instruction. However, these shifts also apply to how we assess NGSS. This assessment conversation will become even more critical as the new California Science Test (CAST) makes its debut.

Facts about the CAST Pilot Test:

  • Pilot test will take place in Spring 2017
  • All LEAs will administer the pilot versions of the CAST and California Alternate Assessment for Science (CAA) as part of the 2016–17 CAASPP administration.
  • Will be taken by all California fifth graders, 8th graders, and all students in a selected grade levels at each High School (The high school grade assignments are now available on the CAASPP Portal High School Grade Assignments for 2016–17 Science Pilot Testing Web page.)
  • Each grade level pilot will have 10-15 discrete items and a performance task.
  • The pilot will take approximately one-hour to complete including a brief student survey at the end of the test.
  • Online training tests are now available. These allow teachers, parents and students to go online and try out a small number of sample tasks and questions in preparation for the statewide pilot test in the spring.
  • CAST Training Items Scoring Guide: CDE has released the scoring guide for the CAST training items released in early February. The Scoring Guide offers details about the items, student response types, correct responses, and related scoring considerations for the included sample of training items.
  • The CAA for Science pilot test will be administered to any student in grade five, eight, or the assigned high school grade with an individualized education program that identifies them for alternate assessment and should be assigned to the CAA for Science pilot test. Instructions for assigning tests can be found in the TOMS Pre-Administration Guide for CAASPP Testing linked on the CAASPP Portal Manuals and Instructions Web page.
  • Accessibility Supports for students with IEPs or 504 plans will be limited for the Pilot but will be in place for the Operational Test in Spring 2019.
  • List of CAST Resources available from CDE

CDE CAASPP Training Site

CDE CAASPP Training Site

Facts About CAST:

  • When the test becomes operational in 2019, all California fifth graders and 8th graders will be tested. High Schools will determine when their students take the High School CAST. Since not all High School students take the same Science course of study, it is likely that students will not all take the CAST at the same grade level, but will take it when their Science course of study is complete.
  • The tests are being created specifically to gauge each student’s performance in the skills called for by the NGSS, including the ability to think critically and solve problems utilizing the three dimensions of the NGSS.
  • Once operational, these tests will provide results and information that educators can put to use in understanding student strengths and weaknesses, and make adjustments to improve learning. CAST will be used to inform districts, teachers, and parents about how students are able to use the three dimensions of NGSS to respond to new problems.
  • The CAST assessment will be computer-based and should take no more than two hours to complete.
  • The concept of CAA embedded performance task relies on students receiving instruction on a particular topic, and then, shortly afterward, getting assessed on that topic by a test examiner using the embedded PT. However, the student may not receive any additional instruction once the embedded PT has started.

Shifts and Limits of the NEW California Science Assessment:

Although State assessments are valuable because they represent a common yardstick – a way to measure the progress of all students at the same time in the same way –  they also have limits.

  • CAST is completely electronic which limits the kinds of questions and tasks in which students are able to engage. Statewide assessments cannot duplicate the hands-on learning of a school science lab. While the new tests will incorporate video and online simulations – as with any subject – fully gauging a student’s science knowledge requires using several different measures of progress. Experiments, in-class assignments, and tests designed by individual teachers will all continue to play an essential part in monitoring the development of student conceptual frameworks.
  • Since CAST is tasked with assessing every CA Science student in 5th grade, 8th grade, and one time during grades 10-12, the test is limited in its ability to provide questions that are modeled after phenomena of which all students have explored in their individual classes during the year.
  • The final operational CAST is not meant to take more than two hours whereas classroom teachers have the flexibility to engage their students in a variety of formative and summative assessments that can take place over several science periods or days. Chapter 7 of the recently adopted California Science Framework is packed with suggestions and strategies for assessing NGSS in the classroom.
  • Creating a new test takes time, and substantial work will continue for several years. Like California’s new science standards, creating this assessment calls for breaking new ground.

Because the new learning goals for science ask students to think and work more like scientists and engineers, developing this new assessment requires formulating questions that bring together both science content and practices, as well as incorporating concepts that span across different scientific disciplines. That poses a challenge for testing experts, who must also consider a wide range of other factors, including the need to keep the tests from becoming too long.

References & Resources:

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

8 Responses

  1. My problem with this Pilot is that I still do not know what my high school 10th graders are going to be tested on. Which specific discipline?

    Rob

  2. Dear Rob,

    The high school pilot will cover all domains – just like the operational. Keep in mind, no test scores will be calculated and reported for the pilot.

    -Jessica

  3. Is there any released sample questions for the middle school test?

  4. Dear Don,

    Not yet. We are expecting early February for practice items – which are different than sample items. The items will be for students to practice with the item types.

    Stay tuned to CSTA – we will send out alerts when they are available.

    Best,

    Jessica

  5. Here you go Don!
    http://www.caaspp.org/practice-and-training/index.html

  6. I took the 5th grade test. Wow. How depressing! Who wrote that? Surely nobody who works with average California 5th graders.

    Yes, you can get students and teachers to rise up to a higher expectation than previously. That happened with Math in the early 2000’s. But students and teachers can only rise so far. Beyond that you’re asking for achievement beyond developmental and socio-cultural realities.

    Good thing it’s only a practice test. The results will be a learning experience for the test developers.

  7. I have a further problem with the 5th grade practice questions: They led test takers to conclude that there was a pollution problem through agricultural runoff, but then they required students to come up with a solution to the problem that involved limited choices that hinted that the solution to water pollution is to get rid of farms. This last part is NOT science; it’s political. One wonders if the writer understands where food comes from.

  8. Hello! This website was super helpful in giving me the tools and information so that I was ready for my test. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.