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New Science Tests: When Will They Start?

In a new series of stories, Education Week looks at the many changes going on in the assessment world. 

The report tackles the rise of digital formative assessments, efforts allowing students to design their own tests, the ongoing race between the two most popular college-entrance exams, and programs aimed at decreasing students' test anxiety through mindfulness. You can see the full table of contents for the report here.

There's also a story I wrote taking stock of where states that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards stand with their summative tests

Since the science standards were released in 2013, 18 states and the District of Columbia have formally adopted them. (About a dozen other states are using similar standards based on the same science framework.)

But as of this spring, only the District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, and Nevada have begun administering tests aligned to the standards. Other states are, for the most part, teaching to the new standards and, because they are required by federal law to assess certain grades annually, still testing to the old ones.

California is an exception. The state is currently piloting new tests aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and is refusing to double-test students by also giving the old tests. The U.S. Department of Education didn't take kindly to that refusal, but will likely end up giving the state at least a one-year waiver.

Mapping State Plans

So when will the rest of the NGSS adopters begin their tests? Things are still in flux in many places, as states are in different phases of hiring contractors and designing and piloting the tests. But the below map represents the best estimate I have so far of when states are likely to begin spring testing for the new standards. (It's based on conversations and emails with folks at the state education departments and testing companies, as well as publicly released documents.)

As you can see, five states will likely start next testing season, in 2018, and another seven plan to begin the year after. A few stragglers—Hawaii and Michigan—will probably hold off until 2020. (Again, keep in mind that the implementation date may be subject to change in these states. I'll update the map as I hear more.)

Hope Allen, the director of student assessment for the Arkansas education department, wrote in an email that the state is using "ACT Aspire for science currently, and [has] no plans at the moment to move away from using that assessment." ACT notes that its Aspire tests "do not directly assess the NGSS."


For more news and information on reading, math, and STEM instruction: 

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