The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2011 grade 8 science assessment was designed to measure students' knowledge of three broad content areas: physical science, life science, and Earth and space sciences; and four science practices: identifying science principles, using science principles, using scientific inquiry, and using technological design. These four practices describe how students use their science knowledge by measuring what they are able to do with the science content.
The content of the NAEP science assessment is guided by the NAEP science framework (10 MB). It provides the theoretical basis for the assessment and describes the types of questions that should be included and how they should be designed and scored. As with all NAEP frameworks, the science framework was developed under the guidance of the National Assessment Governing Board with input from hundreds of individuals across the United States, including some of the nation’s leading scientists, science educators, policymakers, and assessment experts
In 2009, a new framework was introduced that replaced the one used for the 1996, 2000, and 2005 science assessments. The 2009 and 2011 assessments were developed using the same framework, allowing the results from the two assessment years to be compared. A variety of factors made it necessary to create a new framework: the publication of National Science Education Standards1 and Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy2, advances in both science and cognitive research, the growth in national and international science assessments, advances in innovative assessment approaches, and the need to incorporate accommodations so that the widest possible range of students can be fairly assessed.
The assessment resulting from the 2009 framework started a new NAEP science trend line so results from 2009 and 2011 cannot be compared with results of previous science assessments. Whenever changes are made to a framework, efforts are made to maintain the trend lines that permit the reporting of changes in student achievement over time. If, however, the nature of the changes made to an assessment are such that the results would not be comparable to earlier assessments, a new trend line is started. See a comparison of the two frameworks.
The framework organizes science content into the following three broad areas reflecting the science curriculum students are generally exposed to across the K-12 curriculum.
In addition to science content, the framework assesses student understanding of how scientific knowledge is used by measuring what students are able to do with the science content. These four science practices describe how science knowledge is used.
Because of differences in curricular emphasis, the proportion of the assessment devoted to each content area and science practice varies by grade. See the amount of assessment time specified by the framework and devoted in the assessment to each of the three components for grades 4, 8, and 12.
Subscales based on science content (i.e., Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth and Space Sciences) are created at each grade. Subscales are not created based on science practices.
See the distribution of questions for the 2011 science assessment.
The 1996-2005 NAEP science framework specified that the NAEP assessment should assess students in the following areas:
Based on this framework, the science assessment measured and reported subscales for three major fields of science, as follows:
The assessment also measured three characteristic elements of knowing and doing science, as follows:
Each exercise in the science assessment measured content knowledge within one of the fields of science as well as student ability within one of the elements of knowing and doing science (for example, an item may be classified as physical science and conceptual understanding). In addition, one-half of the students in each school received one of three hands-on tasks and related questions. These performance tasks require students to conduct actual investigations using materials provided to them, and to record their observations and conclusions in their test booklets by responding to both multiple-choice and constructed-response questions. For example, students at grade 12 might be given a bag containing three different metals, sand, and salt and asked to separate them using a magnet, sieve, filter paper, funnel, spoon, and water and document the steps they used to do so. Examples of hands-on tasks used in previous assessments are available in PDF format in the NAEP Questions Tool.
|1996–2005 Science Framework||2009 Science Framework|
1 National Research Council (1996).
National Science Education Standards. Coordinating Council for Education, National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
2 American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993). Benchmarks for Science Literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.