AAAS Testing Gives New Insight on What Students Know and Their Misconceptions

The new AAAS website (http://assessment.aaas.org) presents detailed information on how a national sample of middle and high school students answered each question, along with an analysis of both their correct and incorrect responses to assess whether students truly understand the science concepts they are being taught. The site also features information on hundreds of misconceptions students have about everything from the size of atoms to whether all organisms have DNA.

Knowing these misconceptions and how pervasive they are—which is not typically part of the analysis of test results from state testing or from leading national and international testing organizations—can help teachers improve instruction and better design their own test questions

In addition to the test questions themselves, the website includes data on student performance by gender, grade level, and whether or not English is the student’s primary language. Each question typically was answered by at least 2000 students in field tests involving school districts across the nation. In 2010, for example, more than 90,000 students in 814 schools participated in the field tests. Project 2061 researchers also conducted on-site interviews with students to gauge the effectiveness of the questions.

Read more about the new website at http://www.project2061.org/research/assessment.htm.

Testing! Beyond One-Step Math Problems

Middle school students often do well on straight calculations but feel lost when faced with more complex problems. And many tests these days require critical thinking and ask for an extended response. As in all test preparation, students need practice, especially on problems requiring more than one-step computation. Here are sites that offer test items you might use in class reviews, challenges, quizzes, etc.  Please let us know of other treasure troves of practice problems or how you prepare your students for testing.

Searching for Solutions
Within this WebQuest is a set of individual lessons on several problem-solving techniques, such as finding patterns, making a table, working backward, and solving a simpler problem. Each strategy is explained simply, with students in mind, then activities requiring that strategy are presented. An excellent guide from an e-learning specialist on ways to attack math problems!

Balanced Assessment
A set of more than 300 assessment tasks, indexed for grades K-12. Each incorporates a story problem format and includes hands-on activities. Rubrics provided.

Figure This! Math Challenges for FamiliesCreated for students in grades 6 to 8, the site offers math challenges that focus on everyday life, such as how fast your heart beats, what shape container holds the most popcorn, and how much of you shows in a small wall mirror.

Word Problems for Kids
A wide range of carefully selected problems! Organized by grade level from 5 through 12, each problem links to a helpful hint and to the answer; the more difficult problems offer complete solutions.

Problems with a Point
Here you can search for word problems by topic, lesson time, required mathematical background, and problem-solving strategy. Take the time to do the short guided tours of the site, and then look at favorite problems selected by teachers — a good set of problems at the middle school level.

Fermi Questions
Fermi questions emphasize estimation, numerical reasoning, communicating in mathematics, and questioning skills. Students often believe that word problems have one exact answer and that the answer is derived in a unique manner. Fermi questions encourage multiple approaches, emphasize process rather than the answer, and promote non-traditional problem solving strategies.

NAEP Questions
Over 2000 questions archived.  Online tools allow you to search the collection by content area, grade level, and difficulty. The site also shows what students at each achievement level are likely to know and how NAEP questions are scored.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/08/2011.

Re-thinking Math Assessment?

Assessment has become a “big stick” even in the middle school world. Given its prominence today, you may be re-thinking your own ideas on math assessment. The following resources offer professional insights into assessment—its purpose, its possibilities for enhancing instruction, the many ways teachers can gather evidence of student progress. The online reports and articles provide provocative material intended to launch discussion.

If you are looking for more in-depth professional development, Learning from NAEP: Professional Development Materials for Teachers of Mathematics is a manual-plus-CD (not available online) that offers activities and tools necessary to facilitate high-quality workshops.

Measuring What Counts: A Conceptual Guide for Mathematics Assessment
To achieve national goals for education, we must measure the things that really count. This online book, developed by the Mathematical Sciences Education Board, establishes crucial research-based connections between standards and assessment. Arguing for a better balance between educational and measurement concerns in mathematics assessment, it sets out three principles—related to content, learning, and equity—that can form the basis for new assessments that support national standards in mathematics education.

Framework for Classroom Assessment in Mathematics
This proposed framework, based on some 20 years of developmental research, discusses the value of classroom assessment as well as its aims, principles, and methods. An insightful report!

Will This Be on the Test?
Authors Nicole F. Ice and Wendy B. Sanchez contend that “In a very real sense, what teachers choose to put on tests helps students determine what mathematics is important, and in fact, helps shape their view of the nature of mathematics.” Teachers are encouraged to re-examine their own tests to see if these reflect their beliefs about mathematics.

Some Common Errors in Interpreting Test Scores
This article lays out a few common misconceptions among the general public related to test scores and educational research, such as thinking that all students can be at or above “grade level.”  A good article for professional discussion!

The Nation’s Report Card:  Mathematics 2005
This report presents the national and state results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in mathematics. A nationally representative sample of about 162,000 eighth-grade students nationwide participated in this 2005 assessment. The 52-page report looks at the data from several angles; for example, average scores for white, black, and Hispanic students, which were higher in 2005 than in any previous assessment year.

We Need Your Help

We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School Portal math publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.

Writing to Communicate in Science

Communication is a science process skill found within the Science as Inquiry section of the National Science Education Standards. The resources here point to methods and references science teachers can use to assist students in continual honing of this important skill.

Writing with Scientists
In this workshop students will use their own notes and research to write and publish a report online. The workshop will be most helpful if students have completed research on a topic.

14 Writing Strategies
This article from the December 2006 issue of Science Scope enumerates strategies that will encourage critical thinking and provide purposeful writing practice. NSTA members can download the article at no charge; nonmembers must pay $0.99.

Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides
This resource comes from a site intended for college students, Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students. However, because it focuses on PowerPoint presentations it is useful to students and teachers at all levels.

How to… Write to Learn Science
This book, available from NSTA, focuses on tapping students’ creativity, allowing them to express science concepts in their own words. Also offered are options for managing writing evaluations and a section on portfolio assessment. (NSTA members receive a reduced price.)


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/19/2012.

Assessment Tools

Here are some great resources to help you add variety to your assessment techniques. Assessment Standard C of the National Science Education Standards implies a need for multiple forms of assessment and recommends the following: (a)The feature that is claimed to be measured is actually measured, (b) Assessment tasks are authentic, (c) An individual student’s performance is similar on two or more tasks that claim to measure the same aspect of student achievement, (d) Students have adequate opportunity to demonstrate their achievements, and (e) Assessment tasks and methods of presenting them provide data that are sufficiently stable to lead to the same decisions if used at different times.

The ABCs of Assessment
This article discusses aligning assessment with instruction. It offers ideas on how to evaluate the effectiveness of any given assessment activity, stressing authentic assessment.

Portfolio Assessment
A portfolio is a collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas of the curriculum. This resource discusses the characteristics of an effective portfolio, types of portfolios, and the phases of portfolio assessment. It offers guidelines on how to get started using portfolios and how to evaluate them, and provides additional resources on portfolio assessment.

Classroom Assessment Techniques
This is a short, easy-to-read matrix of (a) classroom assessment techniques, (b)outlining descriptions, (c) what to do with the data, and (c) the time required for each type of assessment. The techniques included are the minute paper, chain notes, memory matrix, directed paraphrasing, one-sentence summary, exam evaluations, application cards, and student-generated test questions.

Assessment and Evaluation: Middle Level Science
This reference describes the phases of the evaluation process, assessing student progress, student assessment in science, performance-based evaluation in science, record-keeping, program evaluation, and curriculum evaluation. It contains many how-tos for teachers. The document also has a chart detailing what types of evaluation methods are good for evaluating specific skills.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/10/2011.