Working on State Science Assessments

Twenty-two years ago I was just wrapping up my first year of teaching. Teaching was my second career- I’d spent almost a decade working in Biotech as a STEM professional. Of course back then we didn’t use the term “STEM professional”…I was a lab tech. My career change went well and I really loved teaching those 5th graders. But I also knew that I wanted to find ways to advocate for elementary science and to prepare myself for whatever might come after my time in the classroom.

I remember seeing an opportunity to be a part of a committee/focus group that was looking to start building a science assessment for the state of Washington. We had new science standards and would soon be implementing a state-wide science assessment system. I remember being very interested in what the elementary test might look like. I signed up. I got accepted. And over the following two decades I would work on multiple committees to usher in three different sets for state science standards and assessments (including NGSS). I did item writing, data review, content review, range finding (so much range finding!), standard-setting, work on test and item specs…I can’t even remember every committee. We designed released scenarios & items, PCAs, and lots of professional learning for teachers. Back then most of the meetings were week-long events. Lots of time spent in hotels in Bellingham and Olympia. I also think I maintained my teaching certificate almost entirely from clock hours from those events- a nice perk.

Photo by Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo

I would say that that initial science assessment committee work in the summer of 2001- really propelled me into the work that I do now- working in teacher education and working as a consultant to support schools and districts with STEM instruction. The assessment committee work built my skills in understanding standards deeply, in interrogating the purpose of science assessment, in understanding how to construct clear items, tasks & rubrics, and in building connections with like-minded science folks from across the state.

As it happens, OSPI is currently seeking applications for a new round of science assessment work that will engage in Range Finding in July and Content Review in September. I highly recommend applying to be a part of this work. You will bring key learning and resources back to your district and it just might launch you professionally in ways you cannot even predict.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a committee- so I completed the application. We’ll see if they are interested in having an old Science Assessment Leadership Team fossil involved in the work. Either way- I hope that we get lots of “first timers” to apply. We need to take pride in that fact that since the beginning our science assessment work in Washington has been guided by the work of teachers.

Click HERE to see the Science Assessment Professional Development page on the OSPI website. This site shows you the dates and events coming the summer and fall of 2023. Invitations to apply are sent to those on the science assessment listserv but I’m assuming you could also contact the science assessment team (see link under Contact Information on the right side of OSPI page) and ask for a link to the application. Good luck.


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