Category Archives: personal

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.


A Humble Request…

I have been maintaining this site with a focus on STEM education resources for more than a decade. (We are rapidly approaching 1000 posts to this site.) During that time I’ve never asked my readers for anything. No PayPal donations, no Kickstarter, no Patreon premium content, no merchandise. I’ve even paid every year (until recently) to keep advertisements off of this site.

So, as you can probably tell, today is the day I’m going to ask for something.

In February 2020, my wife was hired as executive director (now CEO) of our local food bank-The Bonney Lake Food Bank. Little did she know that she was entering this already difficult job in the midst of what would become a global pandemic generating rapidly expanding food insecurity. She saw her customer base grow from supporting 150 families per week in February 2020 to over 1000 families per week in November 2020. Notice that says families…not individuals.

Rather than maintain business as usual the Bonney Lake Food Bank has innovated during these stressful times. In order to maintain social distance and support those who cannot always easily travel, they have implemented a thriving delivery model. This has required new infrastructure, new technology, new systems, new software, new vehicles, new knowledge and beliefs about those who need support, and a generous amount of collaboration from the National Guard and the local community.

One of the greatest bottlenecks to the work has been the small dilapidated building that my wife inherited. This eye-sore was quickly spruced up to at least a baseline of usability last winter. However, that building is not a long-term solution. It is a hazard, unfit for the work that needs to be done, and it does not represent the dignity that customers and staff of the food bank deserve. Therefore the Bonney Lake Food Bank will be moving to a new site starting in December of this year. But there is much work that needs to be done at the new site.

Watch the video below to hear from leaders and volunteers at the Bonney Lake Food Bank and their vision for the sustainable new location- The Market.

So I’m asking for your support. If you have ever appreciated a resource that I posted on this site. If you’ve ever laughed at a silly science music video I posted. If you’ve ever used a picture book, a lesson plan, or appreciated a report that you found here. Then I would ask you to please donate to the Bonney Lake Food Bank. Any amount is helpful. Click HERE to donate directly to the relocation fund. This will help the organization move to the new site and to fully enact their vision for providing food, support, and dignity to those who need it most.

Thank you for any support you can give,

Kirk Robbins

Equity-Focused Science Leadership

My friend and colleague, Tom Hathorn (@thathorn), recently launched his own website and blog that is focused on telling the ongoing story of his equity-focused science leadership learning and professional development. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Tom on multiple equity-focused events and I highly recommend adding his site to your equity and science bookmarks.

HERE is the link to Tom’s site.

HERE is the link to Tom’s blog.