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Jul-17-2017 11:30printcomments

Science Testing In The New OAKS

The way Oregon measures student’s science ability is set for a dramatic change.

school testing
Oregon's Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have broad support from teachers and scientists alike.
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(SALEM, Ore.) - The Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, known as the OAKS, has for some time been the primary way of assessing a student’s abilities in a number of core subjects such as English, science and math.

Last year, Oregon introduced the Smarter Balanced test as part of its drive towards meeting Common Core standards. The Common Core standards are intended as a way to standardize education at the local, state, and ultimately federal level and there has been heated debate for some years now over the perceived merits of the Common Core standards.

The Smarter Balanced tests have proved controversial since their introduction with many regarding them as being unnecessarily difficult and time consuming; some estimates put the average completion time for the exam at around six hours.

Amid this controversy many observers have missed the news that the way Oregon measures student’s science ability is also set for a dramatic change.

Next Generation Science Standards

Previously, a student’s science ability was measured against The Oregon Science Standards which provided criteria for various learning objectives that demonstrated both the ability of the student and the performance of their instructor.

Since then Oregon has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and in 2011 applied to be a Lead State Partner, cementing the state’s commitment to Common Core Standards and NGSS, both of which the state helped pioneer.

These NGSS were officially adopted in 2014 however the delay between officially adopting the standards and administering tests which adhere to all the criteria is to be expected.

This time delay has however given the news time to fade into the backgrounds and most people haven’t given it a second thought since it was first announced several years ago. However, it is important for parents and students to be aware of the change in standards, especially when it comes to approaching OAKS practice.

Common Core

Standardizing education is a move popular with many teachers and with the field as having a standardized education system makes it much easier to quickly assess ability and knowledge.

On the other hand, many people feel uncomfortable with a government-approved education being mandatory and others feel that the benefits of the Common Core are overstated or fanciful. Despite this, the NGSS have broad support from teachers and scientists alike.

Who Benefits?

Many teachers support the NGSS because they say that by adhering to the standards laid out within their lessons, students become more involved and are encouraged to approach problems in new ways, helping them develop skills and knowledge beyond the subject being taught.

As one teacher put it, "to answer [a simple] question, my students must create a multi-step action plan that includes measuring the time to read a text, write a text, their reaction time, as well as two more traditional motion experiments for velocity and acceleration.

"They feed this data into the mathematical models they construct, and, ultimately, evaluate and modify that model to account for alternative scenarios, like driving while impaired."

The hope is that by incorporating the NGSS into the OAKS Oregon can take the lead in offering the best possible high school science education.

While we still don’t know what the final NGSS aligned OAKS will look like, we can look to both Illinois and Washington D.C, both of whom administer NGSS aligned assessments that could give an idea of what the new OAKS will look like.

Source: Veselina Dzhingarova; Special Features Dept.


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