Category Archives: Assessment

Concord Consortium: NGSS Assessment Portal

It’s been awhile since I’ve featured any of the incredible science education resources at Concord Consortium…so let’s remedy that.

The NGSS Assessment Portal is an online platform developed by the Concord Consortium, an educational research and development organization. The primary focus of the website is to provide thoughtfully designed 3 Dimensional Assessment tasks for educators.

On the NGSS Assessment Portal you will find a set of elementary (3-5) assessment tasks plus middle grades (6-8). The tasks are all online (not printable) and teachers can create free accounts to assign tasks, have students engage, and then collect their responses.

These tasks can obviously be used with students but can also be objects of study for professional development, teacher education, or used as exemplars for NGSS curriculum and assessment work.


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.

Climate Science Assessment Tasks

The Phenomenal Assessment site features three assessment tasks created for the Climate Science Proviso which has provided climate science education funding in Washington state. You will find an elementary task, a middle school task and a high school task.

Elementary: Comparing & Critiquing Energy Sources grade 4

Middle School: Analyzing Patterns in Wildfire Data

High School: Climate Impacts after 1492

These assessment tasks are not intended to be solely used as summative assessments. Think about how you might use these as objects of study for your own professional learning and how these might be used as assessments WHILE learning. This site provides examples of ways that these tasks might be used in equitable and rigorous ways. See below:


Reflect on Argumentation

Analyze Data



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.

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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NGSS Science Assessment Task Screeners

Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 8.48.58 PMOverview: Achieve recently released two tools for screening and reviewing science assessment tasks- the Science Task Prescreen and the Science Task Screener. These tools will be necessary additions to your toolbox of NGSS assessment resources.

Purpose: The Science Task Prescreen (my personal favorite) is a 1-pager with 8 questions that an individual or group can use to quickly review an assessment task and make some decisions about how and if it requires modification to meet the expectations of NGSS assessment shifts. The Science Task Screener is a more substantial tool that could be used for more in-depth review and modification of assessment tasks.

Audience: Teachers, curriculum developers, assessment writers, PD providers, teacher educators, others



Using Crosscutting Concepts to Prompt Student Responses

OVERVIEW: The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recently released a document to support and encourage K-12 educators to provide clear and explicit language and prompts to integrate the Crosscutting Concepts into instruction and assessment practices.

PURPOSE: Using Crosscutting Concepts to Prompt Student Responses serves many purposes. For one, it continues to tell the story that the CCCs are a powerful (and underused) dimension of NGSS-based instruction. The document connects multiple existing resources on the CCCs and provides new tools and examples for how the use the CCCs to design prompts and how CCCs might be used by students in their responses.

AUDIENCE: K-12 teachers of science, administrators, PD providers, teacher educators, curriculum and assessment developers, etc




Contrasting Groups Study- WCAS Development Opportunity (WA Only)

I want to make sure that all grade 5, 8, & ll teachers of science in WA State are aware of this great opportunity to be involved in the development of the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) called the Contrasting Groups Study.

Unlike most of the opportunities to work on WCAS development, you do not need to travel…it is all online. You will participate in a FREE online training, learn about WCAS and the Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs), and then make predictions of how your students will do when engaging with the WCAS this spring. This information will be used by the Achievement Level Setting committee in August. You will also get to see the results of your predictions. The window to participate ends soon on April 14th, 2018!

Here is an excerpt of the overview of the Contrasting Groups Study from OSPI. See the complete announcement HERE.

What’s the timeline?

The CGS training will be available online on the Moodle training site from March 1 through April 14, 2018. Educators will learn about the CGS study, about the structure and contents of the ALDs, and how to participate in the study. The training will take approximately 3 hours and can be completed at your own pace. Free clock hours will be available to participants.

 After training, teachers will use the ALDs and observations of student work to make predictions about student achievement on the WCAS. These observations can be completed as part of regular classroom instruction and assessment.

 From March 19 through April 14, 2018 teachers will enter their student predictions into the CGS application in the Education Data System (EDS). This process should take approximately 5 minutes per class of 30 students.

 In fall of 2018, participants can return to the CGS application in EDS and compare their predictions to actual student achievement on the WCAS.


Michigan Sample Science Assessment Items

Are you looking for more samples of 2 Dimensional and 3 Dimensional summative assessment items for NGSS? Well, Michigan just recently released online samples of NGSS science assessment items for grades 5, 8, and 11.

Check out the portal HERE. Click on the grade you want and then follow the login instructions. Enjoy!