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NGSS: Clusters, Portals, and Assessments. Oh My!

NGSS: Clusters, Portals, and Assessments. Oh My!

Students doing a science project

It’s a new school year! And mixed with the excitement around new classes and students, I hear questions about the new science assessment. So let me tell you a little bit about what’s developing: namely the WaCAS (Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science) that will be administered to students in Spring 2018.

Last year I shared about the NGSS being 3-dimensional (composed of practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas). These dimensions happen while students engage in explaining a phenomenon or solving a big complex problem. (For a review, read Joe Krajcik’s 2015 article from NSTA . It’s short!). But if that is the vision for instruction, what is the vision for assessment?

In the coming assessment this spring, students in grades 5, 8, and 11 will see “Clusters” in which multiple NGSS Performance Expectations (PEs) are incorporated to describe a cast of characters and a phenomenon or a problem that needs to be solved. Following the cluster introduction will follow several test items, each of which will target at least two of the dimensional descriptors from the included PEs. Examples are not yet available, but OSPI will release some sample tests on the Washington State Testing Portal “Late This Fall.”

The assessment data from 2018 (and possibly 2019) will be reported for federal accountability under ESSA and is intended to establish a new state performance baseline for Washington’s schools. For High School students, current legislation reinstates the science assessment as a graduation requirement for the class of 2021 and beyond (though, this particular set of policies is always being updated and by the time you are reading this, things may have changed). Keep up with the latest on the OSPI website at [http://www.k12.wa.us/Science/Assessments.aspx].