approaches to assessment. Nevertheless, additional research on the design, implementation, validity, and uses of assessment systems that reflect new thinking on the ways in which students develop scientific knowledge, skills, and understanding is needed. We call attention to specific areas of need throughout the report, but note that in many cases research-based methodologies for accomplishing the particular goals discussed in this report have not yet been developed. We acknowledge that we are calling on states to consider some ideas that are not yet supported by a well-developed empirical base, as well as some that have been tried only in relatively confined settings. However, taken together, the existing research literature and the innovative work that has been done in some states provide key means of meeting the challenges of developing NCLB science assessments that are technically sound and support high-quality science education.
In carrying out our charge, the committee did not make recommendations about the science content that should be included in state science standards or represented in assessment, because we view standards as a state responsibility. For this report we turned to the standards that have been developed by the National Research Council (1996) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993) as a good starting place, noting that these too could be improved to make them more useful in the design of curriculum materials and assessments. While we lay out a process for developing and criteria for evaluating the quality of science content and performance standards, and we recommend that states use these criteria to review their own science standards, we did not systematically evaluate existing state standards, because doing so would require a deep understanding of individual states’ goals and purposes and would have been outside the scope of our charge.
There is no single science test that would be equally useful in all the states and territories affected by the NCLB requirements, and the committee did not try either to develop a model assessment system or to break new ground in assessment development. Instead, we examined how what is currently being done could be improved in the context of an assessment system. The committee chose not to recommend that states include or not include particular item types in their assessments or to provide exemplary items for states to emulate. We recognize that no individual item or test would be universally admired, and we note that while the improvement of items and tests is important, it will require more than that to improve the quality and utility of science assessment more generally.
Finally, the committee thinks that the results of science assessment should be publicly reported in a timely manner to all interested stakeholders, along with all other data about student achievement. However, we did not take a stance on future decisions to include or exclude science assessment results from accountability decisions, including measures of adequate yearly progress, as is required by NCLB for reading and mathematics; this policy decision is beyond the committee’s charge.