Analysis of Students’ Assessments in Middle School Curriculum Materials: Aiming Precisely at Benchmarks and Standards

Luli Stern
Department of Education in Technology and Science
Technion City, Haifa 32000

Andrew Ahlgren
Project 2061
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1333 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Received 9 October 2000; Accepted 30 April 2002

Originally published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Volume 39, Issue 9, Pages 889-910.

Copyright © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc. Reproduced with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the written permission of the copyright owner.


Assessment influences every level of the education system and is one of the most crucial catalysts for reform in science curriculum and instruction. Teachers, administrators, and others who choose, assemble, or develop assessments face the difficulty of judging whether tasks are truly aligned with national or state standards and whether they are effective in revealing what students actually know. Project 2061 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has developed and field-tested a procedure for analyzing curriculum materials, including their assessments, in terms of how well they are likely to contribute to the attainment of benchmarks and standards. With respect to assessment in curriculum materials, this procedure evaluates whether this assessment has the potential to reveal whether students have attained specific ideas in benchmarks and standards and whether information gained from students' responses can be used to inform subsequent instruction. Using this procedure, Project 2061 had produced a database of analytical reports on nine widely used science middle school curriculum materials. The analysis of assessments included in these materials shows that whereas currently available materials devote significant sections in their instruction to ideas included in national standards documents, students are typically not assessed on these ideas. The analysis results described in the report point to strengths and limitations of these widely used assessments and identify a range of good and poor assessment tasks that can shed light on important characteristics of good assessment.

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