How Can Simulations Be Components of Balanced State Science Assessment Systems?

By Edys Quellmalz, Matt Silberglitt, Michael Timms

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New science assessment frameworks and standards call for deeper understanding of dynamic science systems and uses of science inquiry practices. Many states recognize that traditional assessment formats cannot adequately assess these aspects of science.

States currently administer large-scale science assessments to all students at least three times between grades 3 and 12. While the majority of these assessments use traditional paper-based formats of multiple choice and constructed response, many states now recognize that important aspects of science are not assessed well in these formats.

For example, knowledge of causal, temporal, and dynamic relationships among components within physical, life, and Earth systems are difficult to test with traditional paper-based formats. The same goes for inquiry processes, such as conducting investigations and communicating results.

This policy brief, produced by the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program at WestEd, explores how simulation-based science assessments can become transformative components of multilevel, balanced state science assessment systems.

The brief recommends two simulation models that policymakers may consider incorporating into state science assessment systems.