$2.9 Million Grant to Develop New Generation of Classroom Assessments

New NSF-funded Project Aims to Align Assessments with Next Generation
Science Standards

Chicago, Illinois, – January 30, 2014 – Four of the nation’s leading research institutions have been awarded a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new system of classroom assessments that aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

The four-year, collaborative grant was awarded to the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago, CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University, the Center for Learning and Technology at SRI International, and the Concord Consortium.

The group will create a dramatically different system that includes new task templates, assessment items, and lesson rubrics that integrate technology and advanced psychometric models to measure student performance under NGSS. “Currently, few supports are in place to guide the successful implementation of NGSS,” said Joseph S. Krajcik, director of CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University.

Developing new assessments is important because NGSS significantly changes the way K to 12 science is taught in school, and changes what students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level. The new standards are aimed at making science education more closely resemble the way scientists work and think, and are based on research about learning that demonstrates the importance of building coherent understandings over time.

The new approach to science education envisioned under NGSS depends on high-quality, aligned assessments of student learning. With that in mind, the collaboration aims to help provide educators with new models and methods to help students succeed under the new standards.

“What we have proposed to develop and implement, with its focus on teachers’ use of assessment to support learning within the classroom, is precisely what has been recommended in a major report issued very recently by the National Research Council on the development of science assessments aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards,” said James W. Pellegrino, Co-Director of UIC’s Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI).

The report, Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards, argues that states will no longer be able to rely on single, end-of-the-year tests to monitor student progress in science, and recommends a strategy that includes the use of a variety of assessments, such as those administered by teachers regularly throughout the academic year.

“NSF’s funding of this project reflects our commitment to understanding and measuring student learning outcomes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM),” said Julio Lopez-Ferrao, NSF program director for this project. “Through this project, the collaborators join efforts to advance the assessment field consistent with the vision articulated by the National Academies.”

The collaborators on this project are creating a system for middle-school chemistry curricula, which will be piloted in classrooms in Illinois, Florida, and Wisconsin. The system will address a core idea in physical science — matter and its interactions — by integrating content on the structure and properties of matter, chemical reactions, and energy with two important scientific practices, or constructing explanations and developing and using models.

One of the important goals of the project will be to include teachers in the design process, said Angela DeBarger, a senior research scientist at SRI International. “The research team will co-design with teachers a set of effective strategies for using the assessments formatively and to monitor student learning as a basis for instructional decision making.”

About the collaborators


Researchers: Co-director James W. Pellegrino, Louis V. DiBello

Focus: LSRI focuses on its expertise in science assessment design and validation, including advanced applications of educational measurement. Leads the measurement components of the assessment development and evaluation work, and contributes to the research design and data analysis.

About: Learning Sciences Research Institute (www.lsri.uic.edu) is an interdisciplinary research institute on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. LSRI researchers work to identify and solve critical K to 16 learning and instructional challenges in literacy, mathematics, science, and the social sciences. Its researchers design and test innovative interventions, models, tools and technologies to support teachers and students in implementing 21st century learning environments.


Researchers: Director Joseph Krajcik

Focus: Co-design of assessments, lead the professional development, and co-lead the development of formative assessment resources.

About: CREATE for STEM (create4stem.msu.edu) is a Michigan State University-sponsored research Institute with a broad mandate to improve the teaching and learning of science and mathematics through innovation and research. The Institute is a joint endeavor of the College of Natural Science and the College of Education at the University, in coordination with the Office of the Provost.

SRI International

Researchers: Senior Research Scientists Angela DeBarger, Christopher Harris

Focus: Leverage SRI’s expertise in applying principles of evidence-centered design (ECD) to national, state, and classroom assessment development. Lead the application of ECD in the design of NGSS tasks and scoring guidelines, and conduct studies to examine the technical qualities of assessment tasks.

About: SRI International (www.sri.com) is a nonprofit research and innovation center headquartered in Silicon Valley. Government and business clients worldwide come to SRI for pioneering solutions in biomedical sciences and health, chemistry and materials, computing, education, economic development, energy, security and defense, robotics, sensing, and more. We provide research, laboratory and advisory services, technology development and licenses, deployable systems, products, and venture opportunities. Our innovations have created new industries and marketplace value, and lasting benefits to society. Visit SRI’s website and Timeline of Innovation to learn more.

The Concord Consortium

Researchers: Daniel Damelin

Focus: Provide curricular and scientific guidance for assessment design. Develop the technology platform to deliver the assessment items, which will include interactive simulations.

About: The Concord Consortium (concord.org), located in Concord, Massachusetts, is a nonprofit educational research and development organization dedicated to igniting large-scale improvements in teaching and learning through technology.