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Work on 1st Phase of Project To Develop Assessments Nears Finish

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Albuquerque, N.M.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia will finish work this summer on the first phase of a project to jointly develop science assessments for elementary, middle, and high school students.

The states are working with the American College Testing program and the Council of Chief State School Officers as part of the council's State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards. When the project began in 1992, the notion that states could pool their resources and ideas to develop assessment exercises "was merely a dream,'' said Ed Roeber, the director of student-assessment programs for the state chiefs. "Now, it is a reality.''

As part of the project, the states drew up curriculum guidelines that reflect the scientific content they teach in common. Teachers then developed nearly 150 different assessment exercises that are linked to the curriculum guides. These include essay questions, multiple-choice items, hands-on performance tasks, and multiweek projects that students complete as part of their regular instruction. States can use any combination of the exercises to develop their own assessments at the state, district, or classroom level.

In addition, the project has developed training materials for teachers on the use of alternative assessments in science. And it is piloting measures of students' opportunity to learn the kinds of hands-on science that are being assessed.

Beginning next fall, the project will also field-test portfolios of students' work.

"What we have shown,'' Mr. Roeber said here last week during the chiefs' annual assessment conference, "is that states can develop assessment products relatively quickly, at lower cost, and of higher quality than they could do on their own.''

Each state paid a membership fee of $85,000 to participate in the first phase of the project. It would cost a state approximately $300,000 to $600,000 to develop such an assessment independently, Mr. Roeber said.

States can participate in the second phase of the project for $70,000. For the same fee, states new to the project can acquire all of the materials developed so far.

Sharing Expertise

A team of assessment and curriculum experts from the states guides the project's development. Megan Martin, an assessment consultant with the California education department, said, "Our assessment team has benefited from the expertise of other states.''

Although California already uses portfolios and performance exercises as part of its assessment system, she said, "we came away with some wonderful ideas on how to improve what we're doing. You can become so focused on your own state that you may not see the national perspective.''

In the fall, teachers who volunteer for the project will select the activities, projects, and tasks to include in students' science portfolios. At the end of the first and second semesters, students will be asked to select their best work from the portfolios and to write reflective pieces that explain what the work demonstrates about their scientific literacy. The A.C.T., the contractor for the project, will make the portfolio materials available to all participating states by fall 1995.

The state chiefs' council has begun a similar project to develop assessments for health education.

The sites participating in phase one of the science project are California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, and West Virginia. Twenty-one states have already agreed to participate in the health-education program, which is being financed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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