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Science Teachers Asked to Help Field-Test Energy Assessment Items

A group that partnered in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards is now asking science teachers to help field-test multiple-choice items for an assessment on energy.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science put out the call this week for volunteers who are willing to administer a 45-minute field test to students in grades 4-12. The test items are about energy, though it's not required that students have had instruction on the topic. Teachers can use either a computer-based or paper-and-pencil format. 

According to AAAS, the test items "will be designed to reveal misconceptions students might have about energy while also requiring them to engage in important scientific practices such as making predictions, explaining energy phenomena, and interpreting tables, charts, and diagrams."

The AAAS announcement is quite clear about how the study will, and will not, be used. It states:

This study is not intended to evaluate teachers or students. Individual student and teacher data will remain strictly confidential. Individual students will not be identifiable. Our only interest is to learn how students respond to these test items so that we can design items that are valid measures of what students know about important energy ideas.

This is all notable because, as of yet, there are no standardized assessments aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Energy is one of many topics covered in those standards across the grade levels.

However, Cari Herrmann Abell, a senior research associate at AAAS, was careful to point out in a phone call that the assessment her group is developing is "consistent with the NGSS" but not limited to measuring its performance expectations. The project, which is funded by the federal Institute of Education Sciences, "is meant to be used by any classroom teachers who are curious about their students' understanding of energy," she said. 

So far, 13 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which emphasize application, scientific inquiry, and engineering design. 

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