MEMORANDUM


January 3, 2002

TO:              Intermediate Level Science Assessment Liaisons (SALs)
                    Upstate BOCES,
                    New York City Community School Districts,
                    Large Upstate City Districts,
                    Non Public School Organizations,
                    Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS) President, Bruce Tulloch
                    Subject Area Representatives - Intermediate Level

FROM:      Rod Doran & Doug Reynolds

RE:              Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test - Performance Test, Form A
                     Frequently Asked "QUESTIONS AND THEIR ANSWERS"

Intermediate-level science teachers (5-8) and their administrators have turned their attention to a major instructional and testing issue before them for this coming academic year; the implementation of the Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test was administered for the first time in May 2001.

Gerald E. De Mauro, Coordinator of Assessment at the State Education Department (SED) has sent to public and non-public administrators a Memorandum and Information Sheet: Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test (dated September 2000).  Judy Pinsonnault has had those two items sent to each of our Intermediate Level SALs and the STANYS Middle Level SARs
as well.  Many of the major questions that administrators and science teachers will have about the test can be answered by Dr. De Mauro's memo and information sheet.

Many additional questions about the performance test have been raised that are not specifically addressed in either the Memo or the Information Sheet, but may be in other SED policy publications.  As part of the team of developers of the performance test, we want to help address these issues.  The attached document was created from paraphrased questions raised by teachers and administrators to the two of us and others.  We have developed the answers to the questions with the assistance of Judy Pinsonnault and the following SALs: Ted Anderson, Kathy Burke, Barbara Hobart, Mary Beth McCarthy, and Stan Wegrzynowski.  Our answers have been checked with staff at SED to verify accuracy and consistency with SED documents and policy as of January 2002.

The questions and their answers are grouped into six categories:

A.  General Information              D.  Test Administration
B.  Equipment and Materials       E.  Rating
C.  Staff Development                F.  Analysis of Results

Much of the content for these answers came from Dr. De Mauro's Memo and Information Sheet of September 2000.  Another valuable source is the set of print materials from the ILS Test Sampler: a) Student Test Booklet, b) Arrangements for Administration, and c) Rating Guide.  SALs should have copies of all of these documents that were provided to them at the
January 2000 workshop, and SARs may have them from either the regional replication workshops, if you represented your school, or the SED's web page (http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/sci.html).  All of you should review those documents again, as well as "Questions and Answers" before providing information to your colleagues in informal discussions or as part of a formal presentation at workshops.

At their January and March 2001 workshops, SALs reviewed materials for the May 2001, ILS performance test, Form A: Student Test Booklet, Arrangements for Administration, and Rating Guide.  Those participants who are representing their school at the regional SALs' replication workshops will use the same publications as part of their workshop activities.  All participants in these and subsequent workshops will be required to sign disclosure agreements, safeguarding the security of those materials.

The enclosed document has been prepared to inform you of the kinds of questions that are coming from your colleagues in the schools and the appropriate answers to them.  You should familiarize yourself completely with these questions and their answers.  Also feel free to use the document as a resource that can be copied and distributed at your workshop presentations.
You may use this document as is, or rearrange it to better fit your needs.  The content of the answers has gone through considerable review and editing.  You may add richness to these answers with your own local examples and anecdotes, but don't change the substance or accuracy of the answers.  That will only generate confusion.  Because of your role as a SAL or a
SAR, your fellow teachers and administrators will assume that you are informed and have the correct answers.  (For subsequent updates, contact this web site:  http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~rdoran).

Sources of information at SED about any aspect of either the written test or the performance test are:

Content/Curriculum questions:          Diana Harding     518-486-5922                 dharding@mail.nysed.gov
Administration questions:                  David Moore        518-474-5099               dmoore@mail.nysed.gov
Rating/Scoring questions:                  Judy Pinsonnault   518-474-5900                jpinsonn@mail.nysed.gov
Reporting Results to SED:                Office of Information, Reporting, & Technology Services
                                                        518-474-3875/ 518-474-7965                   rptcard@mail.nysed.gov
Web Page for Science, NYS Ed. Dept.:                                    http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/sci.html

If you have additional questions about this document, the workshops, or the performance part of the ILS test, feel free to contact Rod or Doug at rdoran@acsu.buffalo.edu or dougreynolds@juno.com.
 

RLD:da
Enc.
cc:  D. Harding
J. Pinsonnault
D. Moore
 
 

GRADE 8 INTERMEDIATE-LEVEL SCIENCE TEST

PERFORMANCE TEST: FORM A

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & THEIR ANSWERS

Revised Edition, January 1, 2002

This document was created to help address questions being raised by administrators and teachers about the implementation of this new State test.  The answers to those questions have been verified with staff at the State Education Department (SED) and are consistent with SED documents and policy as of December 2001.

The questions and their answers are grouped into six categories:

A. General Information          D. Test Administration
B. Equipment and Materials   E. Rating
C. Staff Development            F. Analysis of Results

Much of the content for these answers came from Dr. Gerald De Mauro's Memo and Information Sheet dated September 2000 that has been sent to school administrators (see Appendix A).  Other valuable sources were the set of print materials from the Intermediate-Level Science Examination Test Sampler Draft, Spring 2000: the Student Test Booklet; the Arrangements for Administration; and the Rating Guide.  These were distributed by the Science Assessment Liaisons (SALs) at their regional replication workshops on the ILS test sampler.  The person who represented your building at the workshop in your region should have copies of those materials.  The ILS test sampler is also available at the SED's web page (http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/sci.html).  Copies were sent to all public and nonpublic school administrators in May 2000.

If you have additional questions about this document, the workshops, or the performance part of the ILS test, feel free to contact Rod Doran at rdoran@acsu.buffalo.edu or Doug Reynolds at dougreynolds@juno.com or that person or office at SED who has specific responsibility for that area in which your question is based.  Those contacts can be found in this publication (see A.19).
For any updates after the printing of this revised version, please check this web site:  http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~rdoran.  Such updates will also be distributed to all current Intermediate Level SALs through the listserv.

A.  GENERAL INFORMATION:

A. 1.  What is the purpose of the test?

The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education provide for an intermediate-level science assessment to be administered in grade 8 to measure the effectiveness of the intermediate-level science programs
(5-8) and to serve as a basis for determining students' need for academic intervention services (AIS) in science.  The test is designed to measure grade 8 students' achievement of the Learning Standards for Mathematics, Science, and Technology detailed in the Intermediate Level Science Core Curriculum Grades 5-8.  This test will assist in pointing out areas where students may lack important knowledge, understandings, or skills necessary to meet with success in the Regents sciences.  Public school students whose score falls below a State-designated level must be provided with academic intervention services.  The goal is to help these students prepare to achieve success in the Regents sciences during high school and meet their future graduation requirements.

A. 2.  When will the test be given?

The performance component of the test, using hand-on science equipment and materials, must be administered during the month of May 2002.  (The written component must be given between June 5 and June 20, 2002.)  In larger school districts, such as New York City, specific dates may be designated by them to give the performance test and/or the written test.  Students must be scheduled for a make up time if they are absent on the test day.  It is suggested that the performance test be scheduled early enough in May to allow ample time to give the test to students who were absent.

A. 3.  What is the test measuring?

The test is designed to measure the knowledge, understandings, and skills detailed in the Learning Standards for Mathematics, Science, and Technology (Standards 1, 2, 4, 6, & 7) and the Intermediate Level Science Core Curriculum Grades 5-8.  These publications have been distributed to schools.  The documents are also available on the New York State Education Department's web page at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/sci.html.

A. 4.  Which students must take the test?

All grade 8 students in public schools must take this test.  This includes students on home instruction, and in charter schools.  Nonpublic schools are strongly encouraged to make the test available to their students as well.  Students who are absent on the test day will need to take the test when they return to school within the official dates for administration.

The Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test should be administered to students in the grade in which they will have completed all the material in the Intermediate-Level Science Core Curriculum (5–8). While this is typically 8th grade, the test may also be administered to students in 7th grade who will have completed all the material in the Intermediate-Level Science Core Curriculum (5–8) and are being considered for placement in an accelerated high school–level science course when they are in the 8th grade. The school may not use this assessment to retest any students who participated in this assessment last school year as 7th graders.

This spring, schools are expected to administer this assessment to those 8th graders who did not take this assessment last school year as 7th graders, unless such students will be taking a Regents examination in science at the end of this school year. School principals have the discretion to either require or waive the Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test for those accelerating 8th graders who did not take this examination during the last school year but who will be taking a Regents examination in science at the end of this school year. For those accelerating students for whom the school waives the Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test, the student’s achievement in science will be measured by the student's performance on the Regents examination in science.

A. 5.  Can we use the test with all our grade 7 students, just for practice?

No.  This secure form of a State test must never be used for practice with any students prior to its replacement by a new form.  There are other assessment materials that have been developed for this purpose. These would include the test sampler draft, and the manual A Collection of Alternative Assessment Tasks for Grade 8 available from Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES (800-832-8011).  The June 2001 written test can be used for practice.

Those grade 7 students who are not being considered for acceleration at grade 8 should not be given consideration for this test. Students can only take the test once.  If grade 7 students perform poorly, their scores must be reported the following year with their grade 8 cohort.  This can adversely affect the school's science results on the School Report Card.  In addition, if grade 7 students score below the State-designated level, they will require academic intervention services (AIS) during grade 8.

A. 6.  What will the performance test look like?

In May 2000, The State Education Department distributed to school administrators a publication titled Intermediate-Level Science Examination, Test Sampler Draft, Spring 2000 which is referred to as the "test sampler".  This document contains examples of the various styles of questions to be used on the written component, and it contains three sample performance stations which model the style to be used on the performance test.  The performance test sampler draft is available, while supplies last, by calling SED (518-474-5922) and also on the SED's web page (http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/sci.html).   The protocols for the administration of the performance test are very similar to State performance tests that have been administered in Regents Earth science since 1970, and at grade 4 since 1989.  These protocols are modeled in the test sampler.

For this performance test, students will move among three stations.  They will be given 15 minutes to complete the tasks at each station.  The stations on Form A (to be used as is for several years starting in May 2001) of the performance test are briefly described below:

Station 1 - Sorting Creatures - Students will use a dichotomous key to categorize a collection of plastic organisms, and then refine the key so it can be used for further study. They will make microscopic observations and measurements of a real organism and use their key to classify that creature.

Station 2 - Ramp and Golf Ball - Students will use a ramp, ball, and a target (cup) to gather data.  Students will be asked to make inferences and predictions based on the data they collect.

Station 3 - Woods and Water - Students use measuring equipment to determine several properties of objects (woods).  Students then make additional observations and predictions related to the objects' densities.

A. 7.  How was the performance test developed?

A Design Committee, composed of middle-level science teachers and science supervisors from different regions of the State, met to lay out the style of the performance test and the elements that should be covered by the test.  Over several years, a team of New York State science teachers and other educators, in cooperation with staff of SED, created the various stations for both the test sampler draft and for
Form A.   Each station was trial tested in a wide variety of public and nonpublic schools throughout the State.  Ongoing modifications were made to the stations as a result of suggestions from the trial test teachers and their students.  The stations were further reviewed by the Design Committee, which provided additional recommendations for modifications.

A. 8.  What equipment is at each station?

Detailed information for each station such as equipment and material, and the station layout is available in the test administrator's manual and has been demonstrated at regional training sessions across the State (see Section C: Staff Development).  The type of equipment and materials, while not exactly the same, is somewhat similar to the kind of items used at the stations in the performance test sampler (see Section B: Equipment and Materials).

A. 9.  How long does it take for the students to complete the performance test?

Students are given 15 minutes to complete the tasks at each of the three stations.  Trial testing indicates that the performance component can be completed in 60 minutes which includes the time for students to enter the room, complete the tasks at each of the three stations, move among the stations, and leave the room.  This does not include time to set up the room, or to take attendance which should be done while students are working at the stations.  (The amount of time allowed for students to complete the written test is 2 hours.)

A.10.  When we used the sampler performance test with our students, they had a lot of difficulty.  Many could not finish the tasks in the amount of time provided.  Can we give the students more time on the actual test in May?

No.  Because this is a standardized test for the whole State, no additional time is to be provided to those students who have not finished.  (As with all other State tests, an exception is made for those students who have an IEP which provides a testing modification for additional time.)  Trial testing, for both the performance sampler test and for Form A, demonstrated that many students who have the necessary understandings and skills can complete a station in 8 - 12 minutes.  It was apparent that many of those students who did not finish in the time provided, lacked the necessary background and/or skills and, given an extended amount of time, probably would still not have completed the station's tasks.  However, when using the test sampler stations as part of your local program, the amount of time you allow your students is a local decision.

A.11.  Will there be any special editions of the test?

Yes.  Besides English, the tests will be provided in three alternative language editions: Chinese, Haitian Creole, and Spanish.  The test will also be available in large type print and braille.  As with all State tests, local modifications can be made for those students who have an IEP.

A.12.  What do we do for students who read languages other than those for which the test is available?

Limited-English-Proficient (LEP) students scoring at or above either the 30th percentile on a norm-referenced English reading test or the publisher's recommended score on an approved measure of English as a Second Language (ESL) in reading must participate fully in the State's testing program. Such students may take the Intermediate-Level Science test in English or an alternative language, whichever is better for the student.  LEP students scoring below either the 30th percentile on a norm-referenced English reading test or the publisher's recommended score on an approved measure of ESL in reading must take the test only if it is available in their native language.

A.13.  How are we able to get the print materials for the test?

As with all State tests, the building principals should have ordered the necessary number of tests for their buildings.  These requests will be filled and automatically forwarded to the schools according to the SED's distribution schedule.  Note: These procedures may be different for New York City public schools. Those schools should check with their district's assessment liaison or New York City Board of Education.

A.14.  Do students with physical disabilities have to take the performance test?

The policy for students with disabilities is the same on science tests as with other State tests.  Building principals should be aware of this policy.  All pupils with disabilities must participate in State tests to the extent that such testing is consistent with their individual needs.  Determinations by school principals regarding such access must be based on each pupil's individualized educational program (IEP).  Each student with a disability must participate in State tests, unless the pupil's IEP, as developed by the Committee on Special Education (CSE), specifically indicates that the student will take the NYS Alternate assessment.  Both pupils with disabilities and regular education pupils who are in ungraded classes must take State tests, unless they will be taking the NYS Alternate Assessment. The chronological ages of pupils in ungraded classes should be used to determine who must be tested.

For more information on the New York State Alternate Assessment, visit VESID’s webpage at: http://web.nysed.gov/vesid/pubpage.html.

It is expected that pupils with certain disabilities are using specialized/adaptive equipment and instruction/demonstration techniques during science instruction for activities that require manipulative skills. Therefore, all pupils with disabilities (except as noted above) should take the performance test component of the science tests and be provided specialized/adaptive equipment and instruction/demonstration techniques as well as the alternative testing techniques indicated in their IEP. It is the responsibility of the principal to ensure that alternative testing techniques are provided to students with disabilities, as recommended by the CSE. In addition, when determining who must be tested and who will take the NYS Alternate Assessment, be sure to consider those pupils with disabilities who attend programs operated by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) as well as any other programs located outside the school.

A.15.  Should a school's results on the test be used to evaluate a grade 8 science teacher?

No.  The test has been designed to measure students' achievement of the Learning Standards.  It must be kept in mind that this test is administered in grade 8, but it covers those learner outcomes from grades 5-8. In most cases, this will involve instruction at several grades by different teachers.

A.16.  Who is responsible for ensuring that all the steps in the process are in place so that the test can be given, rated, results reported, and any needed interventions provided?

The building principal, in cooperation with the chief school officer and working with the science teachers of the building, will make the necessary assignments of staff so that all steps in the process will be completed.  This would include ensuring that the appropriate staff has the necessary training to conduct
the performance portion of the test, equipment and materials are available to conduct the test, appropriate rooms are scheduled, scorers are trained, State reports are completed, and academic intervention services (AIS) are provided as needed.

A.17.  Do all the science teachers have to administer the State performance test to their own  science classes?

Not necessarily.  There are several models that could be used.  Usually, one room is designated for the performance test and set up accordingly.  Students to be tested are cycled through the testing room, regardless of which teacher a student has been assigned to for the year.  In a large school, possibly two or more rooms need to be designated and set up for the performance test so that all the students in the school can take the test on the same day.  In a building where there may be five or six intermediate-level science teachers, there may only need to be two to four science teachers scheduled to administer the test and score all the students' papers.

A.18.  In future years, if students are repeating grade 8, does the student have to take the science test over again?

Yes.  As is the case for all elementary and intermediate level state exams, students repeating grade 8 must take the test again.

A.19.  Whom do we call at SED to get answers to additional questions?

At the State Education Department, different persons are responsible for various aspects of the test.  Questions should be directed to one of the following persons or offices listed below:

Content/Curriculum Questions:    Diana Harding, Office of Curriculum, (518) 474?5922
                                                  Email: dharding@mail.nysed.gov

Administration Questions:           David Moore, Test Administration Unit, (518) 486?5099
                                                  Email: dmoore@mail.nysed.gov

Rating/Scoring Questions:           Judy Pinsonnault, Test Development Unit, (518) 474?5900
                                                  Email: jpinsonn@mail.nysed.gov

Reporting Results to SED:          Carolyn Bulson, (518) 474?7965
                                                  Office of Information, Reporting, & Technology Services
                                                  Email: rptcard@mail.nysed.gov
                                                  Website:  www.emsc.nysed.gov/irts

A.20.  What is the reading level of the ILS test?  The sampler appeared to be at a difficult reading level.

Reading comprehension is always a concern of teachers and SED staff.  For several reasons, traditional reading formulas don't work well in determining a reading level on science test questions.  Issues of readability are addressed throughout the test development process by item writers, item editors, exam raters, review committees, field test teachers, standard setting committees, and SED staff.  The Department relies on the best professional judgment of our teacher consultants during all phases of the examination development process, as well as the statistical analysis of pretests and field tests to help ensure that the reading level is appropriate for the students who will be tested.
 

B.  EQUIPMENT & MATERIALS:

B. 1.  When do we find out what equipment and materials are needed for the performance test?  What will be provided by the State and what needs to be provided by the school?

The equipment and materials are the same as those used for the May 2001 administration and for the next several years.  All the print materials for the test will be provided by the State and shipped to the school in quantities as ordered by the building principal.   A letter and information sheet containing a general list of needed equipment and materials was sent to building administrators by the State Education Department (SED) in September 2000 (see Appendix A and "General List" at end of this Section B.).  It is the responsibility of the school to acquire the necessary equipment and materials for the performance portion of the test.  The types of items are similar to, but not exactly the same, as those needed for the stations in the performance "test sampler".

B. 2.  I have not seen the informational sheet about equipment and materials that are needed for the performance test.  How can I get one?

The Information Sheet is included in this document as Appendix A.2.  The general list of the equipment and materials needed for each station of the performance test is also included at the end of this section B.  A more specific list with details for the preparation of the stations for the test is contained in the administration arrangements that was provided at the winter 2001 workshops conducted by your regional Science Assessment Liaisons (SALs) representing your BOCES/large city/New York City community school district and subsequent workshops.  The administration arrangements which will be handed out at the workshops will also be included in the administrator's manual that will be part of the State Education Department's mailing of print materials to schools in April.

B. 3.  Where are we able to get the equipment and materials needed to set up the performance test stations,  and how much does it cost?

There are two categories of equipment and materials needed.  The first category is the kind of capital item that is needed and should already be part of the building's science program. These include mechanical triple beam balances, compound microscopes, and handheld calculators.

The second category is a simpler kind of item that is somewhat unique for the three stations that will be on this performance test.  These items are listed at the end of this Section B and include such things as Ping-pong balls, microscope slides, and wooden blocks.  From the more detailed list contained in the administration arrangements that will be provided at the regional workshops, school building personnel could gather the items and create the equipment and materials needed for each station.  However, this process is not recommended because it is not a cost-effective use of professional staff time relative to the cost of the items provided from vendors.

 There are both public and private vendors who will be creating kits of the second category materials in quantities.  The cost for such a kit of materials will vary depending on how detailed is the preparation of the materials in the kit, and possibly the size of the order.  A fair estimate of cost should be about $250 for a kit that would allow for the testing of 30 students simultaneously.  This does not include the cost of capital equipment, i.e., microscopes, balances, and calculators which should be part of the general inventory of the school.  If a school lacks these items, they will need to order them separately.  At the present time, we have been made aware of eight vendors who will be making ILS performance test kits available to schools: Cyntech (716-372-2243); Delta Educational (800-258-1302); Frey Scientific (800-225-3739); Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES (800-832-8011); Schuyler-Chemung-Tioga BOCES (607-795-5322); Science Kit (800-828-7777).  Your school or district may already have a long term relationship with one of these vendors, as several of them produce kits of materials for the State's grade 4 science performance test, as well as kits for instructional activities in science.

B. 4.  Our grade 5-8 science students have textbooks but don't have any science equipment and materials in our classrooms.  What should we do?

It is expected that students will have had the opportunity to perform ongoing science investigations as part of their science experiences in grades 5 - 8.  If your students have not, they will be at a significant disadvantage on the performance portion of the test and their scores on this portion will reflect this lack of experience.  First, it is important to obtain a budget for, and acquire those capital items mentioned in Section B.3. above (microscopes, triple beam balances, and calculators) and at least one kit of equipment and materials so that your school will be able to conduct the performance test.  Then, for the remainder of this school year and subsequent years, administrators and teachers of science in grades 5-8 should do the necessary curriculum development work, and acquire appropriate science equipment and materials that will allow your students to experience science investigations throughout grades 5-8.

B. 5.  When should we order equipment and kits?

Capital equipment (compound microscopes, triple beam balances, and hand-held calculators) should already be on hand and part of the ongoing 5-8 science program.  Kits of equipment and materials for this performance test can be ordered anytime during the fall or winter.  Early ordering will assist vendors in their planning for how many kits to prepare for shipment.  However, vendors will probably not actually send the kits to schools prior to late winter; that is, until after SALs' have conducted their regional replication workshops and demonstrated equipment preparation.  From previous experiences, we have found that it is not advisable to have kits delivered too early, but when the staff is ready to start preparing the kit for use.

B. 6.  If we bought a kit for the performance test sampler stations, do we need to buy another kit of materials for the Form A test?

Yes.  While some of the items in the performance sampler test kit are the same as those needed for the official test, many items are not the same.  Schools are required to have the necessary equipment and materials for the official test.  It is the purchase of a sampler test kit that is optional.  While purchase of the sampler test kit may appear to be an added expense, it may well save the school an enormous amount of time and expense during the next academic year if your teachers and students are familiar with this style of assessment.  However, this is a local option.  We think that most science professionals will feel fortunate that the State Education Department went to the additional effort and expense to provide schools with sample performance stations.  When ordering a kit from a vendor, be sure to specify whether you are requesting the sampler test kit, or the Form A official test kit.  These are not the same kits.

 B. 7.  What are the specifications for the capital items?

The capital items tend to be the more expensive equipment that should be part of the science department's regular inventory.  Hopefully, students have had numerous opportunities to use this typical equipment as part of the science program in grades 5-8.  These are:

Compound microscopes that are parfocal, parcentered having an eyepiece of 10 x and three objectives, one of lowest power of about 4 x (scanning), a medium power of about 10 x, and a highest power of about 40 x that give total magnifications of about 40 x, 100 x, and 400 x.  (The terms low, lowest, high, and highest are relative terms.)  The compound microscopes can have either a mirror or light illumination sources.  (A room may have a combination of them depending on availability of natural lighting and electrical outlets).

Triple beam balances, not electronic but mechanical, that are able to measure at least to the nearest tenth of a gram, and have three bars with poises (riders) that mass from 0 - 10. grams, 0 - 100. grams, and 0 - 500. grams are needed.

Handheld calculators need only have functions for simple arithmetic (add, subtract, multiply, divide).  A calculator that also has square root, percent, and memory are also acceptable, but not necessary.  These types of calculators are available inexpensively, even those energized by light.

Prior to the testing time, care must be taken to be sure that these capital items are working properly.  From our trial testing experiences, it was found that too much time was needed for the repair of this equipment before the stations could be set up.  This included such things as microscopes that were missing eyepieces, objectives, or were so dirty that they could not be used; triple beam balances that were missing poises (riders) and/or could not be made to "zero"; and calculators with dead batteries.  These items should be inspected annually and reconditioned when necessary.  Often, intermediate-level science programs have inherited old and unwanted equipment from the senior high school that cannot be depended upon to work unless it has been reconditioned, if it is cost effective to do so.

Some schools may have access to only quadruple beam balances.  Because test questions will require students to record their answers to the nearest 0.1g, those students using quad balances may be at a disadvantage by recording their answers to a higher degree of accuracy.  If a quad balance is to be used, secure the 0.01g poise with masking tape so it can not be used, if and only if, the balance can still be "zeroed".

B. 8.  Our microscopes are very old and only have two objectives, 10x and 43x.  What should we do?

Check to see if there is a rubber cap/plug in a blank hole in the nose piece of your microscopes, or see if the 43 x objectives can be unscrewed from the nose piece.  If either is the case, one option is to order scanning objectives, 4 x, from a vendor who has access to parts from the manufacturer of your microscope.  By providing the model number of the scope, most companies will be able to supply the proper objective, or even find them on other obsolete microscopes.  The cost will vary depending upon the quality of the objective and possibly the quantity ordered, but may range between $25 and $50 per objective. This may be a cost-effective way to upgrade old, but otherwise functional, microscopes. If this is not a possible solution, and new microscopes cannot be acquired, students should be instructed on how to use the 10 x objective (total magnification of 100 x if the eye piece is also 10 x) as a scanning objective.

B. 9.  May I use the print materials for Form A with the kit equipment and materials during the school year as instructional activities or as a unit test?

No.  Form A should never be used as instructional activities, as part of unit tests, or for practice.  There are other instructional activities and assessment materials that have been developed for this purpose such as the performance test sampler.  The security of this exam must not be breached.  It must be used only for the purpose for which it was designed.  However, the capital items should be used as part of the schools' science instructional activities on an ongoing basis.  It is strongly suggested that the kit of materials be kept intact at the end of the testing session, securely stored, and ready for the administration of the same tasks again in May 2002 and thereafter.  This will decrease the amount of preparation time for the test in subsequent years.

B.10.  Are there any health or safety issues that need to be addressed prior to using this performance test or the performance sampler test stations?

As part of the trial testing process, health and safety issues were monitored closely.  In the test administrator's arrangements for both the sample test stations and for the official test, Form A, there is a "Safety" section highlighting any specific safety concerns.  On this test, for example, care must be taken to ensure that sunlight doesn't reflect off the microscopes' mirrors directly into the objectives.  Some microscope slides may have rounded edges while others may have sharp, squared edges that might cut.  If dropped, slides could break requiring adults to pick up the pieces.  If electrical extension cords are used for microscope light sources and these stretch across a floor area, clear directions must be given to students as they move between the stations and possibly cross these cords.  Solutions to any safety or health issue are similar to those that would be used by a science teacher as part of classroom instruction.  The activity in the testing room is similar to the activity occurring during normal science laboratory instruction, except for the added controls associated with a testing situation.  If a teacher is in control of the classroom for instruction, the teacher should not have trouble conducting a safe testing environment.

GENERAL LIST OF EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS FOR FORM A:

NOTE: Schools will need to provide microscopes, triple-beam balances, and handheld calculators for the testing room.  It is possible to set up one testing room with 8-12 groups of three stations each.  In this case, 8-12 microscopes and 8-12 triple-beam balances, and 8-12 calculators are needed so that 24-36 students can be tested in a one-hour period.

Station 1 - Sorting Creatures (Material for one station):

Sorting Chart (8 2" x 14"), laminated
Black permanent marker
Three x five index cards (unlined)
Slide A - slide of graph paper (1 mm squares)
Slide X - Slide of microscopic specimen: (drosophila - must clearly show six legs)
Microscope - with eye piece of 10 x and at least two lenses providing a total magnification of about 40 x and 100 x
Collection of six specific plastic creatures

Station 2 - Ramp and Golf Ball (Material for one station):

Carpet tape or duct tape                                 Ruler with groove (metric)
Black permanent marker                                 Support block(s)
5-gram mass or 25-cent coin                          Golf ball
Round plastic container with hole                    Ping-Pong ball
Place mat (11" x 17")  with measuring strip      Masking tape
Two reusable plastic bags (sandwich size)

 Station 3 - Woods and Water (Material for one station):

Balance (triple beam)
Ruler (metric)
Calculator (handheld)
Transparent plastic cup (5 oz) with water
Black permanent marker
Paper towel
Block A in sealed plastic bag (3.7 cm cube - pine, maple, or other wood with a density < 1.0)
Block B (2.5 cm cube - lignum vitae or other wood with a density > 1.0) (Available at science stores or wood specialty stores.)

C.  STAFF DEVELOPMENT:

C. 1.  How do we find out about performance testing?

There are numerous ways to find out about the style of assessment called performance testing.  First is to review the copy of print materials, or electronic form, provided by the State Education Department (SED) in May 2000 regarding the performance test sampler (see Section A.7.) and the print materials to be made available about the actual test, Form A.  Second is to attend workshops on the performance test sampler that have already been conducted or will be conducted in the future in your region of the State by your Science Assessment Liaison (SAL) Network representative.  Early next year your regional SAL will conduct a similar workshop on the actual test, Form A.  A third way is to actually use those stations in the performance sampler test as part of your local assessment program in the intermediate grades.  Fourth is to discuss State performance testing with those teachers responsible for conducting those similar testing techniques at grade 4 and in Regents Earth science.  Fifth, review the professional literature such as the STANYS Bulletin (Science Teachers Association of New York State) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) publications Science and Children, Science Scope and The Science Teacher.  The annual conference of STANYS, held each November, has traditionally had several sessions dedicated to performance testing.  Another is to acquire and use those tasks in the publication A Collection of Alternative Assessment Tasks for Grade 8 available at cost from the Monroe 2 - Orleans BOCES (1-800-832-8011).  This product will help you and your colleagues by providing other examples of performance tasks, and assist in helping you and your colleagues design your own assessment tasks for local use.

C. 2.  What is the SALs' Network?

The Intermediate-level Science Assessment Liaisons (SALs) Network is composed of about 90 appointed educators from various regions of the State who represent the BOCES units, the five large upstate cities, the 32 community school districts of New York City, and some nonpublic school organizations.  The SALs meet with SED staff and project consultants to receive training so they can conduct staff development sessions in their region of the State.  The SALs met in January 1998 to receive information about the publication A Collection of Alternative Assessment Tasks for Grade 8.  They met again in January 2000 for their training on the new intermediate performance test sampler.  They have been conducting replication workshops in their assigned region of the State.  In January 2001, they met again to receive their training on the administration of the new performance test, Form A, that will be given Statewide in May 2001.   The SALs met to receive training on the scoring and reporting of the performance test in March 2001.  They replicated that training in their region of the State in April 2001.  This same sequence of training will continue on into future years for Form A.

C. 3.  How do we find out when our SAL's workshops will be conducted?

Information on when workshops will be conducted in your region will be sent to the building principals by a representative of the regional organization to which your school is served, such as the BOCES, upstate large city school district, community school districts of New York City, or nonpublic school organizations.  The building principal will be informed and make arrangements for the appropriate staff to attend the workshop sessions.  Sometime in February or March, your regional SAL will conduct the replication workshops in your area on the administration of the performance test, which deals with equipment and materials needed, how to set up the stations, and the protocols for conducting the test.  In April, the SALs will conduct another replication workshop(s) which will review any issues about the administration of the test, plus cover details about rating of the students' papers.  This training has been planned to occur at a time close to when local test administrators will actually need that specific information.

C. 4.  Who should attend the regional training conducted by the SAL?

Only that person who will represent your building or district and will actually lead the setting up, conducting, and scoring of the performance test need attend the regional workshop.  The building principal will designate who will represent the building at that staff development session.  It is not necessary that all grade 5-8 science teachers attend, nor that even all grade 8 science teachers attend.  When one school representative has been trained at the regional workshop, he or she can share and instruct any other professional(s) back in the home school who will be directly involved in the administration and/or scoring, and any paraprofessional(s) who will also help set up the stations or be working with students with an IEP.  In a large school, if there needs to be more than one room set up for simultaneous testing, this would require a second representative to be sent to the regional training.  Attendance at the SAL's regional workshops should be limited so SALs will have ample resources, space, and time to provide answers to all participants' questions.  The regional workshops are not intended to train all intermediate-level science teachers in the region.

C. 5.  Will the building or district representative find out at the SAL's regional workshop what the actual performance test will be like?

Yes.  At the first workshop on the administration of the performance test, your SAL will model the actual protocols that must be used by the test administrators in the schools.  Participants will see the actual stations that will appear on Form A of the test.  Participants will take the test under similar conditions as will students, and use the same kind of equipment and materials.  This will give the test administrators the best insight as to how the test is conducted and how all the various parts come together.  At the second workshop in April on the scoring of the test, participants will have the opportunity to review the rating guide (scoring rubric), see actual student responses to tasks, practice scoring these tasks, and compare their scored results to the State standards.

C. 6.  What does a participant need to bring to the workshop?

The SAL may request that each participant bring a compound microscope and a triple beam balance to the workshop.  This will allow participants an opportunity to be sure that such equipment is readily available in their school, get advice from the SAL about the appropriateness of that equipment, and ensure that enough capital equipment is available so that all participants will be able to use typical school equipment as part of their staff development.

C. 7.  I attended the SAL's workshops on A Collection of Alternative Assessment Tasks for Grade 8, and also the workshop on the SED's sampler test performance tasks.  The grade 5-7 science teachers haven't seen any of these publications.  Can I show them those materials and can they use them as part of their assessment program?

Yes.  Both of these publications were intended to be used throughout grades 5-8.  Although "the Collection" of assessment tasks is designated "Grade 8", we recommended that these tasks be used at the appropriate grade throughout the intermediate level where they best support the instruction as an assessment tool. Teachers at these grades should coordinate where it is most appropriate to use a particular performance task so that it is aligned with the local science curriculum.
 

D.  TEST ADMINISTRATION:

D. 1.  Is a special room needed to give this performance test?

No.  In most cases the regular science classroom/laboratory will be used; however, libraries, cafeterias, and gymnasiums have been used for performance testing.  Whatever location is selected, it is important that the work surface used by the students be flat and large enough for the equipment, provide adequate space for students to write, and not interfere with adjacent students.  Also, it must be remembered that the microscopes will need either indirect lighting or access to electrical outlets.  As with instructional activities, care must be taken to ensure that the testing environment is healthy and safe, especially when students are moving between stations.  In some school buildings with large student enrollments, it might be necessary to use a combination of rooms so testing can be occurring simultaneously in more than one room.

D. 2.  Who sets up the equipment and materials for the test?

The performance test will be set up by the person who has been trained to administer the test, usually the one who attended the regional workshop.  It is not expected that every science teacher in a building attend the regional workshop. However, another adult such as another science teacher, science supervisor, or paraprofessional who has also been instructed on the preparation and set up procedures, possibly at the school or district level, can be utilized for this activity.

D. 3.  How long does it take to set up the test in a room for 30 students?

From trial testing experience, set up time will be about 4 person-hours or about 2 hours for two trained adults, assuming that the equipment and kit materials are ready to be placed at the stations.  Once the room is set up for 30 students, many other classes of students can be cycled through that one room for testing.  Set up time is heavily dependent upon how much time is needed to gather and prepare the equipment and materials, and rearrange the tables in the testing room, if necessary.  At some trial test sites, it was found that an enormous amount of time was spent by teachers to: get triple beam balances and microscopes clean; find missing eyepieces, objectives, and light bulbs for microscopes; get balance arms to swing freely, to get them to "zero", and to find missing poises (masses); and get enough hand held calculators that worked.  If equipment and materials are purchased from a vendor, it is important to determine several days before the testing date how many of the items in the kit are "ready to go" and how much additional preparation needs to be done on them at the local level, such as labeling bags, cutting holes in cups, and masking out standard units of measure.  Depending on how many kits your school/district orders from a vendor, as a general rule, the more test-ready the kit's materials are, the higher the cost of a kit from a vendor.  This is due to the added labor cost to the vendor for their extra work on the kit items, but could be offset by a saving of staff time in the school when it comes time for them to set up the stations.

D. 4.  If we don't have enough equipment or materials to go around may we test our students in smaller groups?

Yes, but it is not recommended.  There will be a loss of efficiency of professional staff time and energy by not being able to test as many students as possible at one time.  Most vendors will prepare kits to accommodate at least 30 students simultaneously.  For the capital items (microscopes, balances, and calculators) needed to test 30 students simultaneously, only 10 each of those items are needed.  This is not an extraordinary amount of capital equipment for a school, considering that these same items should be available to students as part of the regular science program in grades 5-8.

D. 5.  How may we schedule our science classes to take the performance test?

Typically, one science room is set up in the building for the exclusive purpose of administering the performance test throughout the day.  Then, all science classes are cycled through that room to take the test.   Although it may be easier to have intact science classes scheduled to take the test at the same time, it is not required to use that one model.  Students from a mixture of classes could also take the test at the same time.   In larger schools, it may be necessary to have more than one room so that all students can be tested the same day.

D. 6.  If our science classes are only 40 minutes long, how can we give a test that takes an hour?

The performance test should be given according to a testing schedule, not necessarily the teaching schedule of the school.  (This will also hold true for the written component of the test as students are allowed 2 hours to complete that portion.)  In trial testing, we found that the performance test could be administered in 60 minutes, if test administrators are prepared.  In those cases where the testing was more than one hour, it was because: students were brought into the room and got to their first stations too slowly; students brought coats and book bags to the room which required time to store them; attendance was taken before test directions were read, rather than waiting until students started working; and/or the reading of directions to students was done too slowly.  It has been found that, after the first class of students is tested, the test administrator's efficient use of time improves with subsequent testing sections.

D. 7.  Could we schedule all of our students to take just one station on one day, then have them do a second station the next day, and then the last station another day?

No.  This is a standardized test and all students are to take the test in the same manner; that is, a single session with the students moving among the three stations.  From a cost standpoint, a school would need three times the amount of capital equipment and kits of materials for each station to test just 30 students at a time.

D. 8.  If some students are absent on the test day, do they need to take it another day?

Yes.  All students in grade 8 must be tested.  Absent students must take the test upon their return, when it is most practical.  Also, because the test must be administered in the month of May, it is recommended that the school select a date for its first administration, which is early enough in the month to provide ample time in that month to conduct make-up testing sessions for any students who were absent.

D. 9.  Can the performance test be set up the day before the testing date so we can begin giving the test at the start of the next school day?

Yes.  The equipment and materials can be set up the day prior to testing as long as the security of the room is not compromised.  Printed test materials should not be left in the testing room but should be stored at another secure, locked location as determined by the building principal.

D.10.  What adults should be in the room before, during, and after the performance test?

Only those adults who are directly involved in setting up and disassembling the test should be in the room before or after the test.  During the test, there are normally just two adult test administrators such as two science teachers, science teacher and science supervisor, or a science teacher and a paraprofessional.  One will tend to be in the front of the room and read directions, keep time, direct student movement between stations, and monitor safety.  The other tends to watch for equipment problems and replacement if necessary, retrieve golf balls and hand out Ping-Pong balls, and monitor safety.  During the test, there may also be a need to have one or more adults who have been designated to assist students with IEPs.  To minimize possible distractions during testing, other adults should not be invited to attend the performance testing.

D. 11.  If students' equipment breaks or spills occur, do they get more time or can they do it over?

No.  Students do not get additional time for any equipment problems.  If the test administrators are prepared, this will not be a problem.  That is why it is essential that equipment and materials are all checked out and deemed "ready to go" prior to students entering the testing room.  One reason why there are two adults in the room is so problems can be handled quickly and efficiently.  The most common problems, but very rare, that were seen during more than two years of statewide trial testing of both the sample tasks and the official tasks were: broken or worn down tips of pencils that were replaced with sharpened spares; "runaway" golf balls that are retrieved quickly by other students and returned; dropped microscope slides that broke and were replaced with spares; spilled cups of water that were wiped up and cups replenished; and calculators that failed and were replaced with spares.  As you can see, any difficulties with equipment were minor, and easily and quickly fixed.

D.12.  Can we help some of our students during the test if they are have questions or are having problems, such as rewording the question using equivalent terms, or explaining a word?

No.  Assistance can only be given for lost or broken equipment or materials, safety issues, and approved assistance according to a student's IEP.  Most student questions should only be answered with "Read it again.", "Sound out the words.", or "Do your best."  No one may give assistance to a student on how to perform a procedure, or acknowledge that the student is performing a correct or incorrect procedure.  This is not the time to provide instruction.  It is the time to try to identify students' strengths and weaknesses based on their performance on the test.

D.13.  What kinds of questions might students ask during the test?

Typical questions raised by students are: "Is this what I should do next?"  "Is this where I should put the microscope slide?"  "Do I divide the little number into the big number, or the other way around?"  "What do they mean by units?"  "What do I do to get the mass?".  The test administrators should not answer these types of questions.

D.14.  What do we do if students' IEPs state that they are to be given more time at a station or a different kind of work stations than what has been set up?

Every effort must be made to address the conditions stated in a student's IEP.  If time is to be extended, it may mean that the student would have his or her own group of stations so that he or she would not be forced to vacate a station so another student can use the equipment.  For those students who need different kinds of work stations then what is being provided in the testing room, one or more of the three stations may have to be set up in a different area of the school where appropriate facilities do exist.

D.15.  If we have several physically challenged students, who cannot manipulate the science equipment, can we do it for them?

The student's IEP should give direction as to what is allowable.  Generally, what is being provided for the student as part of his or her instructional program is also what should be provided during the testing situation.  The State Education Department's publication Accommodations and Modifications for Testing of Students with Disabilities should be referred to for information about testing students with severe physical disabilities.

D.16.  If students finish a station early, may they look at other parts of their test booklet to recheck previously completed work?

Yes.  A student is permitted to review their work completed at a previous station.  They are not permitted, however, to revisit a station to use the equipment.

D.17.  Will the performance test change each year?

No.  This performance test, Form A, will be used for 4 - 5 consecutive years. The reasons for this are higher costs for its development, and the higher cost for equipment and materials as compared to the written test.  Subsequent performance tests would be designated Form B, Form C, etc.  (There will be a new form of the written test each year.)

D.18.  If we have a serious problem during the test, whom do we contact for immediate answers?

Because this is a timed test, it is essential that problems are anticipated and/or resolved quickly.  Serious problems should be cleared with the building principal.  If the principal cannot resolve the issue, a call to the district science coordinator/supervisor may resolve the problem or call SED's Test Administration (518-474-5099).  It is strongly recommended that fire drills not be scheduled during the performance testing times.

D.19.  May a school administer the performance test on more than one day?

Because this is a standardized test, and in the interest of equity, the test should be administered to all students in a school on the same day if that is feasible.  Schools with large enrollments will likely need to set up more than one testing room in order for multiple groups of students to be tested at the same time.  To do this, these schools will need to purchase several performance test kits. Principals of school with more than 150 students in grade 8 may arrange to administer the performance test over more than one day, but should arrange to complete the test in as few days as possible.
 

E.  RATING:

E. 1.  Will there be an "answer key" for the test?

Yes.  A detailed rating guide for the performance test will be included with the other print materials provided by SED which will be mailed to schools in April.

E.  2.  What is included in the rating guide?

The rating guide will be very similar to the one shown in the performance test sampler.  The organization of the guide will be similar to the order of the questions in the student's answer booklet. The rating guide will provide the criteria to be used in rating the student's responses to each item to be scored at each station.  This includes the maximum number of credits and partial credit to be awarded, and sample student responses.  In addition, suggested scenarios are provided for arranging the rating process at the building level.

E. 3.  Can we score our own students' papers?

Yes, as long as it is consistent with the school's policy for scoring tests.  However, it is not recommended that only one teacher be involved in the rating process.  The responsibility is probably best shared among the intermediate-level science teachers so they might better appreciate the kinds of responses students are providing as a result of the instructional program.  It should be kept in mind that, while this test is administered at the end of grade 8, it covers instructional outcomes from grades 5-8 science, which probably involved more than one teacher of science.

E. 4.  Will there be an opportunity to be trained on how to score the performance tasks?

Yes.  The Science Assessment Liaison (SAL) for your region of the State (or Community School District) will be conducting professional staff development workshops.  Announcements of dates and locations for these workshops will be sent to the building principal.

E. 5.  Who should be involved in the rating process?

That person who represents your building at the spring SAL's workshop on rating should definitely be involved in the process.  In addition, other intermediate-level science teachers who have been trained at the local level may also be involved in the process.  Because almost all of the answers on the performance test will be students' constructed responses, and there are instances where there may be more than one correct or partially correct answer, only science teachers should participate in this activity.  While a knowledgeable intermediate-level science teacher could score each of the stations, if there is more than one science teacher available, it is advisable to have the science teachers focus on rating the station which is in their specific area of expertise.

E.  6.  Can we use our own judgment when we rate students' answers?

Because this is a statewide, standardized test, all raters should adhere closely to the criteria provided in the rating guide.  Most of the time, students' responses will be nearly identical to the samples provided in the rating guide.  However, there will be times when students' responses do not match those samples provided.  If a response is scientifically correct or incorrect, the rater should award credits accordingly.  The raters must use their best professional judgment in those cases.
 

E. 7.  If a student's answer is not shown as a sample, how does the rater know if a student's response should receive full or partial credit?

As part of the rating process, it is strongly recommended that one setup of each station be in the rating room for reference. (This is especially true for Station 1: Sorting Creatures.)  In cases where a student's response deviates from the rating guide, the rater can recreate the student's work to see how much credit should be awarded.

E. 8.  Should students be penalized for spelling and grammar errors?

No.  The student should not lose credit for incorrect grammar, spelling, capitalization, or punctuation on this test.  There are other State tests that will assess those skills.  However, credits should not be awarded if a student expresses a written response so poorly that the rater cannot determine what is meant.

E. 9.  How long does it take to rate the performance test?

From the scoring of trial test student papers, it was found to take about one hour to rate the responses of 8-10 students for all three stations.  It was found to be a faster process if a rater focused on only one station for all the students' papers, rather than scoring all three stations on one student's paper and then going on to the next student's paper.  This is because it is easier for a rater to get into a rhythm of students' responses for only one station at a time.  The rater can more easily internalize the rating criteria, and rater reliability will be maximized.

E.10. Why will it take so long to rate the performance test?

There are three basic reasons.  First, this test uses a constructed-response rather than a multiple-choice format.  So, each individual student's written responses must be read.   Second, the rating guide will allow for partial credit, an advantage to the student.  This does require the rater to take a little more time to decide how many credits to award.  Third, where large numbers of students do not posses the knowledge and skills needed on the test, the rating can be more difficult.  In cases where students are able to demonstrate near mastery of the necessary outcomes, the papers will be easier to score, even enjoyable.  It is anticipated as teachers and students become more accustomed to this style of assessment and local programs better reflect the outcomes in the "Core Curriculum 5-8", scoring performance tests will become easier and faster.

E. 11.  Is there a place on the student's test booklet to record the credits earned by the student?

Yes.   Inside the test booklet, there will be space in the margin for the rater to mark in red the credits to be given for each response.  These individual credits for the station will be summed and entered in the appropriate box on the cover sheet.  On the student test booklet's cover sheet, there will be boxes placed for the recording of the credits earned at each of the three stations, as well as a place for the total score on the performance test.  There will also be a place to record the student's performance test score on the student's written test answer sheet to help raters arrive at a total score for both written and performance parts of the test.

Some districts may provide a separate scannable sheet for recording students’ performance test scores.  This is a local decision.

E.12.  Are the grade 8 students' results on the intermediate-level science test to be a part of  "The School Report Card"?

Yes. Beginning with The School Report Card for 2001-2002, a page reporting school results on this test will be included.  The format of this report will not be determined until closer to the publication date.  This report is generally made public in January of the following calendar year.  For example, The School Report Card for the 2001-2002 academic year will be published in January 2003.

E.13.  How are the scores reported for those grade 7 students who take the test?

The scores of grade 7 students will not be reported in the year that they take the test.  Grade 7 students' scores will be held until the following year when those students become eighth graders and reported as part of their grade 8 cohort's results.

E.14.  What reports regarding students' results must be completed?

At this time, the records and reports for science that must be completed by local school official are still under development.  However, these should be similar to reports that principals already complete for reporting building results on other State tests.  Many schools and districts will report this data through the Regional Information Center (RICs).  If school administrators have specific questions about reporting, they should contact their local assessment liaison, or the SED's Office of Information, Reporting, and Technology Services (see A.19.).
 

F.  ANALYSIS OF RESULTS:

F. 1.  Can this test be used as part of the student's final exam grade, or as part of the final average for grade 8 science?

It is not recommended that the results be used for either of those purposes, but this is a local school decision.  Keep in mind, the major purpose of the test is to assess a student's strengths and weaknesses to see if academic intervention services (AIS) should be provided to help the student.  The test is designed to measure the knowledge, understandings, and skills that should have been taught in grades 5-8, not just grade 8.

F. 2.  What happens to students who "fail" the test?

Students whose scores are below the State-designated level on the Intermediate-Level Science Test must be provided with academic intervention services (AIS) commencing the semester immediately following the administration of the test.  The type of AIS provided is a local decision.

F. 3.  What do we do if we find a large number of students having difficulty with specific tasks at a station?

Although the test is a student assessment, students' results can be used as a valuable tool for program evaluation.  For example, when large numbers of students are unable to perform a certain skill, this might well indicate an area in which your science program has not provided students with sufficient opportunities to learn (OTL).  This area should be a focus for curriculum and/or staff development.

F. 4.  How can we improve our science program by using the test's results?

An item analysis of the students' papers may show sections of the test where large numbers of students had difficulty.  Included with the written test rating guide will be an appendix that contains several charts.  These charts will link each item on the written and performance tests to the Intermediate Level Science Core Curriculum Grades 5-8.  This Core Curriculum is based on the Learning Standards for Mathematics, Science, and Technology.  Through the use of these charts, you can identify areas in which your students need help.  If students' performance is poor in a specific area, it might be due to: a total lack of instruction; not enough student activities; not providing enough instructional time; lack of appropriate equipment; a lack of necessary science background from earlier grades; or a deficiency in basic skills.  By isolating the cause of low performance by large numbers of students, administration and staff will posses the information needed to plan for and to implement curriculum and/or instructional improvement.

F. 5.  How can we anticipate the kinds of mistakes that students will make on the performance test so we can make corrections in our program beforehand?

One way to anticipate mistakes is to administer the performance test sampler, or other similar performance tasks, to your students.  Observe the students as they work at their stations and make mental notes of operational errors made by, not just one student, but by several students.  When you see many students having the same problems, this may indicate shortcomings of the science program or even other instructional areas of the school's curriculum.  You will also gain insight into problem areas when you score the students' answer papers for the sampler tasks.  The performance test sampler contains a cross-reference chart, similar to the one described in F. 4.  After rating the students' papers for the test sampler, the chart can help you identify areas in need of curriculum modifications, instructional improvement, and/or staff development.

F. 6.  What are some of the big areas that give students problems?

From trial testing in a broad sample of schools, a student's problem(s) could be classified into one or more of three major categories: lack of science knowledge and skills; lack of ability to apply mathematical knowledge and skills in a real situation; and lack of language arts skills, particularly reading for comprehension.  On the positive side, students' writing ability was not as serious a problem as was anticipated.

F. 7.  What might be done to provide academic student intervention services for the students whose scores fall below the State-designated reference level?

Analysis of an individual student's paper will indicate those areas where that student needs to be provided additional learning experiences.   For an individual student who needs academic intervention services (AIS), the problem area that needs to be addressed might not be additional science, but might be additional help in applying mathematics or reading in the content area, possibly using a co-teaching model of the science teacher with the mathematics or reading teacher. The assistance could also be provided as individual help, or with small groups of students who have similar instructional needs, in a learning lab, or as more intense instruction or additional time as part of the student's scheduled classes.  The AIS's style, duration, and intensity are local decisions based upon the student's performance on the State test and ongoing monitoring of the student's progress.
 
 

APPENDIX A:

 

1.  Gerald E. DeMauro Memo of September 2000 to School Administrators


To:           District Superintendents
                Superintendents of Public and Nonpublic Schools
                Principals of Public Elementary and Intermediate-Level Schools
                Principals of Nonpublic Elementary and Intermediate-Level Schools

From:       Gerald E. DeMauro, Coordinator of Assessment

Subject:    Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test

Date:        September 2000
 

The Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test will be introduced in spring 2001. All public schools are required to administer the test.  Nonpublic schools are strongly encouraged to administer the test as well.

The test will have both written and performance components.  The purpose of this test is to measure achievement of the Learning Standards for Math, Science, and Technology detailed in the Intermediate- Level Science Core Curriculum Grades 5-8.  An Information Sheet regarding the test is enclosed.

A State-designated level of performance will be established to help schools identify students who must receive academic intervention services. All students who score below a designated level on the test must receive such services, which must commence in the semester immediately following the administration of the test.

The test will be administered to grade 8 students.  The test may also be administered to grade 7 students who have completed all of the material in the Intermediate-Level Science Core Curriculum Grades 5-8 and are being considered for placement in an accelerated, high school level science course when they are in grade 8.  The inclusion of grade 7 students who meet these criteria is a local decision.  The scores for these grade 7 students can be used as part of the information on which to base local decisions concerning placement of the students in accelerated science courses.

Students will only be permitted to take the test once.  The scores of students who take the test in grade 7 will be reported the following year with the student’s cohort.  Therefore caution is advised regarding administering the test to grade 7 students.  If a grade 7 student scores below the State-designated level of performance, the student will be required to have academic intervention services the following year.

The Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test will have two required components, a written test and a performance test.  These are briefly described below:
 


For both the written test and performance test, student answer papers will be scored locally by teachers using scoring guides provided by the Department.  Guidelines concerning the time required for science teachers to complete this scoring are provided in the enclosed Information Sheet.

Workshops on how to administer and score the performance test will be offered in your region of the State early in 2001. Schools will receive more information in 2001 regarding dates, times, and locations of this training.  Specific questions regarding the performance test will be answered at that time.  These workshops will be organized by three groups of educators:


A list of the materials needed for the performance test is provided on the enclosed Information Sheet.  Kits of materials for all stations will be available from some commercial vendors and some BOCES.  Schools may prepare the performance task materials themselves.  NOTE:  Schools will be responsible for supplying this equipment for the test administration along with the other required performance materials. The performance test will require students to use a mechanical triple beam balance, a microscope, and a hand-held calculator.

The Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment distributed a test sampler for this test in June 2000, the Intermediate-Level Science Examination, Test Sampler Draft. This document contains sample questions for both the written and performance tests along with scoring guidelines for each.  The test sampler is intended to acquaint intermediate-level science teachers and administrators with this new test.   This document is available on the NYSED web site via the Science publication page at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/sci.html.  While supplies last, additional single copies can be obtained by calling (518) 486-7895.

Further information about ordering, administering, and scoring the test will be provided during the 2000-2001 school year. Questions about the test should be directed to the following Department staff:

           Content questions              Diana Harding, Curriculum and Instruction                  (518) 486-1970
           Administration questions    David Moore, Test Administration                              (518) 474-5099
           Scoring/rating questions     Judy Pinsonnault, Test Development                            (518) 474-5900
 

cc: Intermediate-Level Science Assessment Liaisons
     NYC CSD Science Coordinators
     NYC Board of Education
 
 

2.  Information Sheet, Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test


                                                    INFORMATION SHEET
                                      Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test
                                            Date of Introduction: Spring 2001

Test Description:
The purpose of the Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test is to measure achievement of the Learning Standards for Math, Science, and Technology detailed in the Intermediate-Level Science Core Curriculum Grades 5-8. The test will have a two-hour written component and a one-hour performance component.  A State-designated level of performance will be established to help schools identify students who must receive academic intervention services. All students who score below a designated level on the test must receive such services, which must commence in the semester immediately following the administration of the test.

The test consists of questions in three formats: multiple-choice, constructed-response, and extended-constructed response.  The questions are based on the material in New York State's Intermediate Level Science Core Curriculum (5-8).  The first table below shows the approximate percentage of the test that addresses each of the five relevant learning standards. The second table shows the approximate percentage of the test devoted to specific formats and purposes.

                                    New York State Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test Blueprint
 

Area in New York State Intermediate Level Science Core Curriculum (5-8)

Approximate Percentage of the Test


Standard 1 – Mathematical Analysis, Scientific Inquiry, and Technological Design 

20 to 25%

Standard 2 – Information Systems 

0 to 5%

Standard 4 –  The Living Environment; The Physical Setting 

65 to 75%


Standard 6 – Interconnectedness: Common Themes 

0 to 5%

Standard 7 – Interdisciplinary Problem Solving 

0 to 10%


 

 

 

Parts of the Test (formats and purposes)

Approximate Percentage of the Test

 

multiple-choice items

Content-based questions assessing the student’s knowledge and understanding of core material (primarily from Standard 4) 

25 to 35%

Written test

multiple-choice and constructed-response items

Content- and skills-based questions assessing the student’s ability to apply, analyze, and evaluate material (primarily from Standards 1 and 4)

25 to 35%

 

constructed-response and extended-constructed response items

 Content and application questions assessing the student’s ability to apply knowledge of science concepts and skills to address real-world situations (primarily from Standards 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7).  Through the use of real-world situations, students will be asked to formulate hypotheses, make predictions, or use other scientific inquiry skills in their responses to the questions posed.

20 to 30%

Performance test

open-ended items

Application questions assessing the student’s skills in using hands-on equipment and materials in their responses to the questions posed 
(primarily from Standard 1)

15%

 Scoring Time and Rating Techniques:

Performance Test, Form A:

This test will consist of hands-on tasks set up at three different stations.  Each student will spend 15 minutes at each of the three stations during the testing period.  Detailed information on the equipment, materials preparation, and station setup will be provided at the regional workshops.  The three stations on Form A are briefly described below:

Station 1 - Sorting Creatures - Students will use a dichotomous key to categorize a collection of plastic organisms, and then refine the key so it can be used for further study.  Students will make microscopic observations and measurements of a real organism and use their key to classify that creature.

Station 2 - Ramp and Golf Ball  - Students will use a ramp, ball, and a target (cup) to gather data.   Students will be asked to make inferences and predictions based on the data they collect.

Station 3 - Woods and Water - Students use measuring equipment to determine several properties of objects (woods).  Students then make additional observations and predictions related to the objects' densities.
 

Performance Test, Form A Materials List:
NOTE: Schools will need to provide microscopes, triple-beam balances, and hand-held calculators for the testing room.  It is possible to set up one testing room with 8-12 groups of three stations each.  In this case, 8-12 microscopes, 8-12 triple-beam balances, and 8-12 calculators are needed so that 24-36 students can be tested in a one-hour period.

Station 1 - Sorting Creatures (Material for one station):
 


Station 2 - Ramp and Golf Ball (Material for one station):
 


Station 3 - Woods and Water (Material for one station):
 

(Source for lignum vitae: science stores or wood specialty stores)

 

 

3.  Katz Memorandum for Accelerated Students:                                                                                      


December 2001

 

 

TO:              District Superintendents

                     Superintendents of Public and Nonpublic Schools

                     Principals of Public and Nonpublic Schools

 

FROM:        Steven E. Katz

 

SUBJECT:  Clarification on Procedures for Including Accelerated Students in the

                     New York State Intermediate-Level Tests in Mathematics and Science

 

 

This memorandum provides information concerning the inclusion of accelerated students in the New York State Intermediate-Level Tests in Mathematics and Science. It augments the general guidelines for student participation in these assessments, which is contained in the memorandum mailed to you in September entitled “Procedures for Ordering, Shipping, and Storing of Materials for the 2002 Administration of the New York State Elementary- and Intermediate-Level Tests.”  That memorandum is available on the Department’s web site at:

http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/testing/eliinfogen/det9050801.pdf.

 

STUDENTS TO BE TESTED

 

Public schools must administer all elementary- and intermediate-level tests to their students. Nonpublic schools are strongly encouraged to administer these tests. The rules below apply to students in public and participating nonpublic schools:

 

        The Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Mathematics Test should be administered to students in the grade in which they will have completed all the material in the Intermediate-Level Mathematics Core Curriculum (5–8). While this is typically 8th grade, the test may also be administered to students in 7th grade who will have completed all the material in the Intermediate-Level Mathematics Core Curriculum (5‑8) and are being considered for placement in an accelerated high school-level mathematics course when they are in 8th grade. The school may not use this assessment to retest any students who participated in this assessment last school year as 7th graders. This spring, schools are expected to administer this assessment to those 8th graders who did not take this assessment last school year as 7th graders. The participation of such students in the Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Mathematics Test may not be waived.


 

        The Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test should be administered to students in the grade in which they will have completed all the material in the Intermediate-Level Science Core Curriculum (5–8). While this is typically 8th grade, the test may also be administered to students in 7th grade who will have completed all the material in the Intermediate-Level Science Core Curriculum (5–8) and are being considered for placement in an accelerated high school–level science course when they are in the 8th grade. The school may not use this assessment to retest any students who participated in this assessment last school year as 7th graders. This spring, schools are expected to administer this assessment to those 8th graders who did not take this assessment last school year as 7th graders, unless such students will be taking a Regents examination in science at the end of this school year. School principals have the discretion to either require or waive the Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test for those accelerating 8th graders who did not take this examination during the last school year but who will be taking a Regents examination in science at the end of this school year. For those accelerating students for whom the school waives the Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Science Test, the student’s achievement in science will be measured by the student's performance on the Regents examination in science.

Some schools may need to adjust their requests for examination booklets as a result of a new calculation of the number of students who will be participating in these assessments. All such changes in examination orders should be sent via fax to 518-474-1989 prior to February 15. Additional test booklets requested after that date may be delivered to schools substantially later than the ordinary delivery dates for these tests.

 

More information on these and other State Assessments is available at our web site: http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/assess.html. If you have specific questions concerning the ordering of test materials or any of the other information in this memorandum, call 518-474-5099 or 518-474-8220.

 

 

(Revised 1/15/02)
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