May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

The Nation’s Report Card Releases Results From an Innovative, Interactive Computer-Based Writing Assessment

Posted: Friday, September 14th, 2012

More than three-quarters of 8th- and 12th-grade students perform at or above the Basic level.

WASHINGTON (Sept. 14, 2012) – For the first time in its history, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has used computers to assess students’ writing, with national samples of 8th- and 12th-grade students. Results from NAEP—also known as The Nation’s Report Card—showed that more than 75 percent of students at grades 8 and 12 performed at or above the Basic achievement level, meaning that they have at least partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed to communicate clearly in writing. But only about a quarter of the 8th and 12th graders wrote at or above the Proficient level, which means they demonstrate solid academic performance.

Writing in the 21st century takes many forms, many of them electronic. Therefore, the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, designed a new computer-based writing test. The new NAEP writing assessment in 2011 acknowledges the increasing role that technology plays in education. This groundbreaking large-scale assessment not only measures student writing achievement, it also tracks the extent to which students use common word-processing tools when developing their written responses. NAEP has measured writing for nearly four decades using a paper-and-pencil essay format, but the Governing Board determined that a new type of writing assessment was needed in this technology-driven age. For this innovative assessment, the Governing Board defined writing as a complex, multifaceted and purposeful act of communication that is accomplished in a variety of environments, under various constraints of time, and with a variety of language resources and technological tools.

“The pace of written communication in today’s environment reflects the transition to an information-based economy built on complexity and efficiency,” said David P. Driscoll, chairman of the Governing Board. “The Nation’s Report Card’s new computer-based design captures students’ ability to respond clearly and accurately in real-world, on-demand situations and allows NAEP to collect information about how students use technology in developing and editing their writing. These data tell us how well students are writing using the technology they will have in higher education and the workplace.”

In this first year of the computer-based writing assessment, NAEP tested national samples of 24,100 8th graders and 28,100 12th graders. New scales for grades 8 and 12 were developed separately and range from 0 to 300 with a mean set at 150 for each grade. As with all NAEP assessments, results are also reported across three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, andAdvanced. The Basic level denotes partial mastery of the prerequisite skills and knowledge fundamental for proficient work; Proficient represents solid academic performance; and Advanced represents superior performance. Future results for grades 8 and 12 will be compared with the 2011 results to provide information on achievement trends over time. It is important to note that the 2011 results cannot be compared with previous NAEP writing assessments because of the change to a computer-based format and other new elements in the assessment design. In addition, NAEP conducted a 2012 pilot test in writing using a computer-based format for fourth-grade students. The Governing Board has determined that fourth graders will be included in future computer-based assessments in the coming years. When states have the infrastructure to support NAEP computer-based tests, they can volunteer to participate in future state-level NAEP writing assessments.

“Writing is fundamental to effective communication, especially in an era in which email and other word-processed documents are the norm rather than the exception. Our nation’s students need to write clearly, logically, and accurately. We need to focus on supporting students beyond Basic levels so that they have a solid grasp of effective writing skills,” said Driscoll.

The Governing Board’s goal is that as NAEP frameworks are revised, future NAEP assessments will be delivered via computer using interactive test questions and dynamic scenario-based tasks. The move to an entirely digital format represents an opportunity to collect data about how students use computers, and how this relates to performance on the assessment.

The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011 describes the assessment that includes writing situations common to both academic and workplace settings and asks students to write for various purposes and communicate to different audiences. Students were presented with a range of interactive tasks that included short video or audio segments, newspaper articles, data from real-world settings, and other materials on which to base their writing. Each student was given two writing tasks and had 30 minutes to complete each one. At both grades, students’ writing was scored on a six-point scale, ranging from “effective” to “little or no skill.” The scoring acknowledges that students are being evaluated on their first-draft writing in an “on-demand” situation and not on their final, polished pieces of writing. The purpose-driven writing assessment measures how well students develop, organize, and use language to convey ideas. At the same time, the computer-based format allows NAEP to gather data on the extent to which students use commonly available word-processing tools such as spell check, cut, and copy and paste. Click here for an example of an eighth-grade question.

One 12th-grade writing task asked students to explain to a college admissions committee why they value a specific type of technology. Students watched a short video with animations and statistics about technology use and then were asked to write an explanation of the value of technology. Students who wrote at an “effective” level developed explanations that included well-chosen details that enhanced meaning, a clear progression of ideas, precise word choices, and well-controlled sentences. Students scoring at the “adequate” level developed written explanations using some details that did not enhance the clarity or progression of ideas, while organization was somewhat loose and sentence structure was relatively simple.

Additional highlights from Writing 2011:

  • Three percent of both 8th and 12th graders performed at the Advanced level.
  • Twenty-four percent of students at both grades 8 and 12 performed at the Proficient level in writing.
  • Fifty-four percent of 8th graders and 52 percent of 12th graders performed at the Basic level in writing.
  • Twenty percent of 8th graders and 21 percent of 12th graders performed below the Basic level.
  • The eighth-grade average score was higher for Asian students than for other racial/ethnic groups.
  • At grade 12, White students, Asian students, and students of two or more races performed similarly to one another.
  • At both grades, Black and Hispanic students had lower average scores than White students, Asian students, and students of two or more races, and female students outscored male students.
  • At both grades, students who used the backspace key and thesaurus tool more frequently scored higher than those who engaged in these actions less frequently.
  • English language learners were less likely to use the thesaurus tool than non-English language learners.
  • Twelfth-grade students who write four to five pages a week for English language arts homework score higher than those who write fewer pages.
  • The average writing score for grade 8 students attending public schools was 16 points lower than the average score for students attending private schools, and 18 points lower than students in Catholic schools.

The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011 results are available at www.nationsreportcard.gov. Visit www.nagb.org/writing2011 for more information on recent results.

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.

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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…

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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 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…

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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.