July/August 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 8

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:

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th-grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is Past-President of 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!

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LATEST POST

CTC Seeking Educators for Science Standard Setting Conference

Posted: Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and Evaluation Systems group of Pearson are currently seeking California science educators to participate in a Science Standard Setting Conference for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) program. Each standard setting panel is scheduled to meet for one-day, in Sacramento, California. The fields and dates are listed below:

Multiple Subjects Subtest II (Science), Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Physics, Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Chemistry, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Science Subtest II: Life Sciences, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Science Subtest II: Earth and Space Sciences, Thursday, October 5, 2017
Science Subtest I: General Science, Friday, October 6, 2017

The purpose of the conference is for panel members to make recommendations that will be used, in part, by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in setting the passing standard, for each field, in support of the updated California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).

Click here to nominate educators. If you are interested in participating yourself, complete an application here for consideration.

Eligibility:

Public school educators who are:

• Certified in California
• Currently practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above. 

College faculty who are:

• Teacher preparation personnel (including education faculty and arts and sciences faculty)
• Practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above, and
• Preparing teacher candidates in an approved California teacher preparation program.

 Benefits of Participation Include:
• Receive substitute reimbursement for their school (public school educators only),
• Have the opportunity to make a difference in California teacher development and performance,
• Have the opportunity for professional growth and collaboration with educators in their field,
• Be reimbursed for their travel and meal expenses, and
• Be provided with hotel accommodations, if necessary.

For more information, visit their website at www.carecruit.nesinc.com/cset/index.asp

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.

CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.