Kentucky’s science assessment system: What is it?
Whether you are a sports fan or simply concerned with
getting to dinner on time, you are familiar with a clock.
The components of that time-telling system include a second
hand, a minute hand, and an hour hand– or indicators for them. All three are
simultaneously advancing, each moving at a different rate, yet each is
essential to providing the most accurate description of the time. If any one of
them fails to function, you may still have some information – but you lose the
precision. Depending on your purpose, losing any one of the pieces may actually
render resulting information useless for the task.
That clock analogy can be used for our science assessment system.
We have three particular components:
- day-to-day, minute-to-minute checks for
understanding or classroom embedded
- periodic, common, formative ‘through course tasks’; and
- our statewide
Each of these components is essential to advancing teaching
and learning, and each provides necessary information for particular users and
These components of the assessment system occur on different
schedules, but they are all moving in the same direction. Each of them collectively
tells us about how a student is learning, but they also provide information
that can be used to improve individual student learning, instructional practice
and entire school programs.
The Kentucky science assessment system is based on the
clear, defined learning expectations included in Kentucky’s Academic Standards for Science.
A deliberate effort has been made to build the system on a foundation of what
happens in every classroom every day (i.e., ‘classroom embedded assessments’)
and through course tasks for classroom use for every grade level, K-high school.
This information helps teachers and schools to better understand and support
student learning progress continuously over time and evolve teacher growth and
A Systems Approach
Tony Wagner, an expert in residence at Harvard University’s
Innovation Lab, suggests that only through a systems approach can we achieve
the student outcomes we seek. In his book “Change Leadership,” Wagner states:
will not improve unless and until teaching improves. Higher standards, more
testing, smaller schools, etc. do not, by themselves, improve teaching.
“Teachers, working alone,
with little or no feedback on their instruction, will not be able to improve
significantly – no matter how much professional development they receive.
“The challenge of
change leadership is to create a ‘system’ for continuous improvement of
instruction, supervision, and instructional leadership.”
The system approach addresses different users’ concerns. For
example, students need to know what they are expected to learn and be able to
do and receive specific information or feedback on how they are doing so they
can improve. Teachers need to know if their translation of the standards into
practice is on target with the intentions of the standards and if they are
holding students and themselves to the correct level of expectation. Schools
and districts need to know how courses and programs are doing at ensuring that
each student is able to engage with science standards every year in school so
they can become scientifically literate over their 13 year learning
progression. Other community and state level shareholders need to know if
public schools are succeeding at building a scientifically literate generation.
No single assessment can do all those things – but a
coherent system aimed at producing needed information for such uses and users
What should we be doing now?
Read more on the Science Assessment System Components
Office of Teaching and Learning
300 Sower Blvd., 5th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
Fax (502) 564-9848