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National Standards for Assesment in Science Education
by Barry Oches

  Recently, the National Research Council published a book entitled National Science Education Standards (1996, National Academy Press). It proposes a call to action by the education community to achieve the goal before us: that all students should achieve scientific literacy. They "spell out a vision of science education that will make scientific literacy for all a reality in the 21st century. They point toward a destination and provide a road map for how to get there." Regardless of how you feel about national standards versus local control, this publication offers some useful information for us to ponder in reviewing our science programs.

  They propose six sets of standards. Included are standards for: teaching science, professional development for teachers of science, assessment of science education, science content, science education program, and science education system. All together, they provide a comprehensive overview of educating toward scientific literacy.

  The one set of standards explained here are those for assessing science education. They describe the quality of assessment practices used by teachers and state and federal agencies to measure student achievement and the opportunity provided students to learn science.

  As can be seen, each of these standards needs further explanation. There just is not enough space in this article to do that. The book has an entire chapter on these standards and does a good job of putting them in context. If you want to borrow one of these books, contact your curriculum coordinator.

  In conclusion it is important to note that there is no one best way to assess. Good assessment means using a variety of methods, tools, events and viewpoints to find out what a student has learned. The proficiency tests are a fact of life. We know the kinds of skills for which they are looking. They are hardly the only determinant of assessing our students' science.

Standards for Assessment of Science Education
A Assessments must be consistent with the decisions they are designed to inform.
B Achievement and opportunity to learn science must be assessed.
C The technical quality of data collected is well matched to decisions and actions taken on the basis of their interpretation.
D Assessment practices must be fair.
E The inferences made from assessments about student achievement and opportunity to learn must be sound.

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