Published Online: April 14, 2004
Published in Print: April 14, 2004, as Testing

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Scientific Contributions

Rather than just criticizing the assessments that measure the math and science learning of K-12 students, a prominent group of scientists is pitching in to make better test items.

The Washington-based American Association for the Advancement of Science has announced a new effort to design and build a collection of test items in mathematics and science that provide "explicit evidence that a student has or has not learned a specific idea or skill" in state or national standards.

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More precise exams—and the educational diagnoses they would make possible—are needed, given the standards-based testing requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, say officials of Project 2061, the school improvement arm of the AAAS.

Under the federal law, students must be tested annually in math in grades 3-8 and at least once during high school. Within a few years, a science-testing mandate will kick in.

"Currently, there simply aren’t enough high-quality test items linked to content standards," said George E. DeBoer, the deputy director of Project 2061 and the principal investigator for the new project, unveiled last month.

"With these new items, educational researchers will be able to answer important questions about the impact of various curriculum materials and instructional strategies, and teachers will be able to find out what their students know and can do, and to pinpoint areas where they need more help," he said.

Project 2061 will spend $4.1 million over five years to produce the collection of about 400 test items for grades 6 through 10. The items will include multiple-choice and open- response questions. They will be assembled in an item bank that will be linked electronically to state and national science-content standards and be accessible online, most likely for free.

Begun in 1985, when Halley’s Comet last passed the Earth, Project 2061 was named for the expected date of the comet’s next visit and is meant as a reminder that children in school today will be there to see the event, and must be prepared for the profound scientific and technological changes that are expected in the meantime.

Project 2061 was one of the pioneers of the standards movement that began in the 1980s.

Andrew Trotter

Vol. 23, Issue 31, Page 6

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