Developing a State Assessment System: Nebraska’s Story

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 10.07.36 AMThe state of Nebraska is on a journey to develop a comprehensive state science assessment system that not only includes a state-wide summative assessment system (grades 5, 8, & 11) for science but also:

 

 

  • Curriculum Embedded Science Tasks (K-12)
  • Science Task Library (K-12)
  • Monitoring Tasks (Grades 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10)

If you’d like to know more about this work, check out the overview from Achieve HERE.

A Framework to Evaluate Cognitive Complexity in Science Assessments by Achieve

Achieve just released A Framework to Evaluate Cognitive Complexity in Science Assessments. This short document features a rubric for rating scenarios and the 3 Dimensions in assessment items and item sets. The focus is on cognitive complexity that supports students sense-making during the assessment.

Below is a table showing the “3000 ft” view of the rubric. A more detailed version of the tool is also available.

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Here are the 3 principles of this framework:

  1. Each item receives separate judgments for each of the four indicators.
  2. No value judgments are attached to complexity levels.
  3. Designed based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education, the framework is designed to work flexibly with all new three-dimensional science standards.

I know that several school districts, schools and teachers are working on designing, adapting or simply shopping for quality science assessment items. This looks like another tool to support your work. Enjoy.

Book: Thing Explainer- Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Monroe

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-8-02-51-pmFile this one under “fun” but I’m sure most science educators can find several uses for this book with students. I have owned Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Monroe (Creator of xkcd) for a couple of years. I keep it in my office and every so often I find myself opening it up and spending several minutes examining the brilliant labeled diagrams (they are amazing detailed systems models) that show how common and important living and designed systems work.

Mr. Monroe committed to using only the “ten hundred” most common words. This constraint creates a beautiful simplicity that gets to the essence of these systems. As science teachers we can learn a lesson from this. Too often we value vocabulary words as evidence of student understanding. Perhaps we should push more for simplified explanations that use everyday language.

I think that any human being will find this book to be interesting and any scientist, engineer, or STEM educator will also find it to be inspiring and valuable. There is something about the clearly illustrated systems models that mesh perfectly with the vision of the Next Generation Science Standards. This book also makes a wonderful gift.

AUDIENCE: all

LINK: Thing Explainer

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Great Picture Book: Cece Loves Science

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 6.59.01 PMOVERVIEW: My daughter Cece is 9 years old and last fall we were walking through a Barnes & Noble (yes they still have those!) and we saw a display for a picture book titled Cece Loves Science. My daughter saw the display and shouted, “I DO love science!”

I’ve been using science and engineering related picture books for two decades- both with children and adult learners. I look forward to thinking about how I will use Cece Loves Science (by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes, illustrated by Vashti Harrison) with the preservice and inservice teachers I support.

The picture book tells the story of a young girl of color, Cece, who loves to ask questions and figure things out. In the story, Cece and her best friend Isaac, are trying to figure out the best way to conduct an investigation involving her dog, Einstein.

This book has been out for over a year and I’m interested to hear how folks have used this picture book with students. I’d love to hear some stories.

PURPOSE: In the last few years we have seen a much-needed increase in the number of STEM-focused picture books with main characters representing populations who have traditionally been marginalized in STEM- females and people of color. Cece Loves Science is another resource to add to our toolbox that highlights the exceptional thinking of young ladies and positions them as the determined problem-solvers  that they are.

AUDIENCE: children, adults, educators, teacher educators, librarians, informal science educators

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inquiryHub (iHub) Biology: Free Full Year HS NGSS Bio Units

Screen Shot 2019-09-22 at 2.01.56 PMThe inquiryHub (iHub) biology landing page provides a full-year high school life science course that is 3 Dimensional and built for the Next Generation Science Standards. These materials were developed by teachers from Denver Public Schools collaborating with the University of Colorado Boulder and Northwestern University. This team designed three units that meet the expectations of the high school life science performance expectations in NGSS. These units have been content reviewed by a group of scientists and have also been reviewed for NGSS Quality by Achieve.

In my neck of the woods we have many high schools where biology is taught using either outdated or homemade materials that may not meet the vision of the NGSS. These types of readily available online materials from iHub not only model the types of instructional units that we need for high school students but also provide a cost effective way for schools and districts to access high quality materials.

iHub Biology contains the following resources:

The units are built on the founding principles of 3D science instruction including:

  • Engaging Phenomena
  • Coherent storylines
  • Student use of SEPs and CCCs
  • Assessments of and for learning

Please chime in and leave a comment if you’ve used these materials. Enjoy!

 

 

Claim, Evidence, & Reasoning (CER) Resources Part 1

supporting grade 5-8For the past several years I have been supporting pre-service and inservice teachers with the use of the Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (CER) framework for scaffolding students’ writing and talking about scientific explanations and arguments. This framework provides a common language for discussing the elements of powerful explanations and arguments. It isn’t a formula to memorize but a framework for support and improvement.

I have used the following books in professional development and also in college courses I’ve taught.  I highly recommend these:

whats your evidenceTogether these books provide a very clear and engaging look at how to use a Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) framework to improve student writing and discourse in science. The CER framework can support not only science explanations but also the Common Core State Standards’ focus on using evidence and argumentation in math and English/Language Arts.

Over the years, I’ve developed some tools that could be useful for professional development providers, professional learning communities, and ultimately students who are engaging with a CER framework.

Resources:

1. An activity for writing a scientific explanation of whether soap and fat are the same substance. This is directly from the first book with some added reflective questions for teachers. This could be used as an initial activity with teachers before revealing the CER framework. CER writing an explanation fat and soap

2. A set of 3 Formative Assessment Probes (based on Page Keeley’s work) to uncover student ideas about science explanations- the probes include a DRAFT facilitation guide. Feel free to improve these:

3. A video “think sheet” for participants to track their thinking while watching the first video clip from the book where a teacher introduces the CER framework to a class of 7th graders- introducing CER framework vid 2.1 think sheet

Please let me know if you have any revisions/changes/improvements to any of these documents. Hope these are helpful… enjoy.

I’ll add a few other resources in an upcoming post. What CER resources have you found most useful in your own work with students?

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WA NGSS WCAS Test & Item Specs Released

Many of us science assessment nerds have been anxiously awaiting for the NGSS Test & Item Specifications for the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS). The anticipated arrival of these document reminds me of an iconic clip from Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk (see below).

These documents are organized into the following grade bands:

I’m assuming that these documents might be useful to science educators outside of Washington. You will see that there is support for each NGSS Performance Expectation from Grade 3 through High School and there are some pretty cool features such as:

  • information on items types and assessment design
  • a variety of 2 Dimensional versions of each PE
  • details and clarification that provide greater specificity to the original PE for not only assessment but also instruction

See the screen shot below for 5-PS1-1 to get a sense of some of the extra information provided by the item specs.

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