January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Science Assessment & Accountability Update – FAQs Included

Posted: Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

by Jessica Sawko

On March 31, 2015 participants from the Science Assessment Stakeholder Meetings held in July 2014 were invited to participate in a follow up meeting to provide input on what a formative component, a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Digital Center, should look like for California. This NGSS Digital Center could include formative assessment tools similar to that of the Smarter Balanced Digital Library for ELA and mathematics. This meeting will take place at the end of April 2015. This is very exciting news as it gives some insight to the direction the state may take with the future statewide assessment system to support the Next Generation Science Standards. 

At the March 11, 2015 State Board of Education meeting, the board reviewed the proposed format for the statewide assessment results report that will be sent home to parents. While a student’s performance on the assessments will not be part of a school or district accountability measure (see California State Board of Education Approves Suspension of State’s Accountability Measurement System), parents will receive a report of how their child performed on the assessments currently underway across the state. This report home will include the results of the science test given in grades 5, 8, and 10. Consequently, CSTA provided feedback to the board regarding the language accompanying that report. In response to CSTA’s recommendation, the State Board directed staff to modify the language from that originally proposed, along with other edits recommended. The final version of the report has not yet been made available. CSTA has heard many concerns from members across the state concerns about the mixed message of beginning to implement new science standards while requiring students to take a test based on the old standards. With this in mind, CSTA has worked with the state to provide a clear message home to parents about the purpose of the state science assessment and its lack of applicability to the new standards.

CSTA and our partners have developed a list of science assessment FAQs. We have been able to generate answers to many. The following is a list of FAQs which we are able to provide answers to at this time:

TIMELINE QUESTIONS:

  • What is being tested this year? Students in grades 5, 8, and 10 will take the paper and pencil assessment formerly known as the CSTs, CMAs, and CAPA. (Source: CDE)
  • At which grade level? 5, 8, and 10 (Source: CDE)
  • For how long will these tests be in place?  Until an assessment aligned to the CA NGSS is implemented – based on the currently approved timeline for assessment implementation, this means the “old” tests will be administered through the 2016/2017 school year. (Source: CDE)
  • Will it count in AYP/API calculations? For API – not in 2014/2015 – after this year it is not yet determined. (Source: CDE) For AYP – science is not a part of AYP other than it’s role in calculating growth API
  • Will the AYP and API be the measures, or will something else be developed? If yes, what and when? AYP is a federal measure. API is a California measure. AYP will continue unless the Federal government makes changes to it if and when re-authorizes ESEA. In March 2015, the State Board of Education received a recommendation from its advisory committee (source: EdSource), the Public Schools Accountability Act Committee (PSAA). That recommendation was that the state move away from a single measure (API) and move toward a system of multiple measures (source: EdSource). The earliest this new system could be in place, at least in part, is the fall of 2016.
  • How will the NGSS test be phased in? when will it be developed? Piloted? Field tested? Counted? In 2015/2016 development of the new CAASPP Science Assessment (for NGSS) will begin. Development of the new assessment will include:

Standards analysis and development of content, item/task, and test specifications, blueprints, and achievement level descriptors

Development of achievement standards for alternate assessments

Development of computer-based and paper-based items, tasks, and scoring guides

Development of formative assessment tools

The current timeline (link to outside source) calls for the new assessment to be piloted in 2016/2017, field tested in 2017/2018, and fully operational in 2018/2019. The question of accountability for this assessment has not yet been addressed. (Source: CDE)

  • When the NGSS test is being developed, piloted, field tested etc, will the old CST test still be given? If yes, why? Yes, the test commonly known as the science CST will continue to be administered until a successor assessment is in place to comply with federal testing requirements (Source: Ed Code)
  • Will the current 5th, 8th and 10th grade test be reported on something like the AYP or API or some other measure? For how long? Student participation in the science test will be reported as a part of AYP. Student performance on the science assessment will not be a part of the 2014/2015 API, as this measure is not being calculated. Its role in a future accountability measure has not yet been determined.
  • What communication can CDE provide to parents, district superintendents/principals to transition to the new standards even while the old standards are being tested? Some of the communication to parents will be included on the individual student reports (see section above about the draft report). CSTA and others have requested CDE develop a communication to parents and administrators and we hope that one will be provided by CDE soon. 

NCLB/Federal Testing Questions Once NGSS Assessments Are Operational:

  • What grade levels might be addressed by the federal requirement? Unless there is a change in federal ESEA requirements, science be assessed at least once each in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. 
  • Will the test be comprehensive (all of the non-tested years prior) or just a single grade level? This has not yet been determined. 
  • Will there be ONE test and will it be solely computer based? (same test regardless of integrated vs discipline specific instruction at MS and HS) The content and grade level of the assessments have not been determined yet. The assessments will most likely be computer based. The likelihood of computer-based assessment is determined from interpreting the RFS distributed by CDE for the development of the new science assessments (source: CDE)

RESOURCES:

  • Will there be a “NGSS Digital library” like Smarter Balance? Possibly. ETS is convening a second stakeholder meeting at the end of April 2015 to gather input on the development of such a library.
  • Will formative tools be developed by the state for use by teachers in the classroom? Unknown at this time, however this was discussed during the science assessment stakeholder group meetings in July 2014

STATE ASSESSMENT PLAN (BEYOND FEDERAL ESEA REQUIREMENTS):

  • In what grades will science be tested – for non-Federally mandated tests- in the new statewide assessment system? Unknown at this time. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must take the recommendation to the State Board of Education by March 1, 2016. (Source: Ed Code
  • Will there be end of course exams in high school? Unknown at this time. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must take the recommendation to the State Board of Education by March 1, 2016. (Source: Ed Code
  • Will there be a primary assessment to give a snapshot of primary grades? At what grade might this assessment be placed? Unknown at this time. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must take the recommendation to the State Board of Education by March 1, 2016. (Source: Ed Code
  • Will we be testing every student on the same test or using a matrix testing model? Unknown at this time. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must take the recommendation to the State Board of Education by March 1, 2016. (Source: Ed Code
  • Will the state (non Federal) tests be paper and pencil/ lab performance/computer based? Unknown at this time. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must take the recommendation to the State Board of Education by March 1, 2016. (Source: Ed Code
  • Will the new assessments include performance tasks? Unknown at this time. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must take the recommendation to the State Board of Education by March 1, 2016. (Source: Ed Code

NEW ASSESSMENT DEVELOPMENT QUESTIONS:

  • What percentage of any reporting mechanism will the new CA-NGSS assessment account towards—in elementary, middle and high school?  Unknown at this time. The state, in collaboration with WestEd, is developing the LCFF evaluation rubrics, which must address the 8 state priorities – two of which apply directly to science, priority #2 the implementation of state standards, and priorities #7 and #8 which address student access to a broad course of study (including science among other subjects) and student outcomes in those subjects (including science). For more information about LCFF and the evaluation rubrics under development, please visit http://lcff.wested.org/. The State Board of Education recently approved of the PSAA committee’s recommendation to move away from a single measure (API) to a system of multiple measures. Where the results of the new science assessments will fall into this new accountability puzzle has not yet been determined.
  • Who will be writing the questions for these tests?  The state board of education will award the contract to the company that will develop the new federally required science assessments at their May 2015 meeting. ETS was selected as the preferred vendor, however the details of the contract are still being negotiated and the final contract will be voted on at the May 2015 meeting. (Source: Sacramento Bee)
  • How will the results be reported to teachers, students, parents, districts? Unknown at this time, however it is likely that they will be reported on the same report as the SBAC assessment results.
  • Will teachers be given more descriptive reports to improve instruction or will the reports just show overall performance on the standards? Unknown at this time. However, in 2013 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson released his Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System, in which he called for:

…establishing a bold and innovative assessment system that includes a variety of assessment approaches and item types that model and promote high-quality teaching and student learning and sets a course to ensure that all California students are well prepared to enter college and careers in today’s competitive global economy.

OTHER QUESTIONS:

  • What if anything, and when if ever, will there be something happening with CAHSEE? Might it be eliminated? Replaced by Grade 11 SBAC? Updated it to align with CCSS? If it is updated or replaced might science finally be part of the exit exam? Senator Carol Liu has introduced legislation (SB-172) to suspend passing the CAHSEE as a requirement for graduation for three years beginning in 2016/2017. The bill also requires the Superintendent to convene an advisory panel to provide recommendations to the Superintendent on the continuation of the high school exit examination. This recommendation, if the law is enacted, will require the recommendation be presented by the March 1, 2016 deadline mentioned above. (Source: SB-172)
  • Will there be assessment of “opportunity to learn science” that measures things like time devoted to science, access to hands- on materials, and teacher professional development and preparation for science content and pedagogy? It is possible that these may be measures that a local district may choose to use as part of the LCFF evaluation rubric, however it is not known at this time as the rubrics are under development.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

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