State board changes science testing grades, sets A-F cut scores

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State board changes science testing grades, sets A-F cut scores
By Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette-Mail

The West Virginia Board of Education voted Wednesday to change the grade levels in which public school students take end-of-year science standardized tests and set cut scores to determine the broader grades for entire schools in the upcoming A-F accountability system.

Board members approved both moves in voice votes with no nays heard. Of the nine board members with voting power, Mike Green and Gayle Manchin were absent.

In the 2014-15 school year, the board approved a waiver of its own policy to reduce for that spring West Virginia’s requirement for science exams from grades three through 11 to just in grades four, six and 10 — federal law requires annual science testing only in three grades. In 2015-16, the board approved a policy change to make that science testing reduction permanent.

But the new statewide policy waiver approved Wednesday now shifts the science-tested grades this spring from fourth to fifth and from sixth to eighth, with grade 10 remaining a tested grade.

It also allows for embedding of field test items into the science tests this spring to help develop a planned new science standardized test based on the state’s new science standards, without requiring stand-alone field tests. The science tests West Virginia has been using, and will continue to use this spring, have been based on the Westest, the longtime custom Mountain State test that has been replaced for English and math with the national Common Core standards-aligned Smarter Balanced test. Westest isn’t aligned to the new science standards.

There are neither Common Core standards nor Smarter Balanced tests for science and social studies. The state’s new science standards, which were implemented statewide this school year, are the “performance expectations” from the Next Generation Science Standards national blueprint, save for the fact the state board changed the word “rise” to “change” in the sixth-grade performance expectation “ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.”
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