Science Assessment for the Next Generation

Nearly two dozen states have adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)* or similar integrated standards that set a new direction for science education and assessment. NGSS standards couple Science and Engineering Practices with various components of the Disciplinary Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts to make up performance expectations.

Using scientific practices, teaching content, and presenting big ideas are familiar activities for science educators. So what’s new about this? Integration and synthesis:

  • New expectations for educators—Multi-dimensional standards require science educators to integrate content, practices, and crosscutting concepts in instruction.
  • New expectations for student performance—Students need to demonstrate rich understanding and discovery across all dimensions.

Straddling the Divide between Current and New Science Standards

Educators report that their biggest challenges in the transition to new science standards include:

  • Time—Teachers need time to truly understand the standards, and to plan and incorporate new methods of instruction. Students need time to work with materials and approaches that require them to learn and respond differently.
  • Continuity—Because students are still being tested on current standards, teachers are challenged to make instruction and assessment cohesive as they address both current and new standards.

Transition Support, Innovative Design, Opportunities for Practice

Our NGSS Solutions team works with educators to leverage familiar assessment approaches so that change can begin quickly. We help you identify attainable goals to guide in your transition—based on your state’s timeline and needs.

Oklahoma item and test designs: We’re creating new item specifications for Oklahoma that take into account the complexity of three-dimensional instruction and performance expectations. Oklahoma students will soon take science assessments in which multiple items in “clusters” focus around a single stimulus. The clusters can include various item types that collectively assess all three dimensions of the standards. Students will be exposed to these clusters along with their current assessment program, so that when their new science assessment is implemented in 2016–17, they will be better prepared to demonstrate their understanding.

NECAP “inquiry tasks”: We’ve worked with the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) to develop their science assessment since 2006. The NECAP science assessment has included groundbreaking “inquiry tasks”—which require group investigation and individual reflection and response—since 2008. These performance assessments point the way toward an integrated model of student response.


Download sample NGSS items for grade 5, middle school, and high school.

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In its 2014 report, Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards, the NRC specifically highlighted the NECAP tasks, noting that they “require that students demonstrate science practices and interpret the results”—in essence, that students demonstrate integrated, multi-dimensional knowledge. (National Research Council. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2014. page 151.)

*NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.