Assessment in Science

Effective educators measure the progress of their instruction frequently through a combined use of formative, interim, and summative assessments.

Assessment Timeline

Assessment Timeline

M-STEP Science Assessment will transition to 3-Dimensional Science Learning aligned to our new Michigan Science Standards (MSS) which are the performance experctations (PE's) from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Please see timeline below.


  • Tentative Timeline (subject to change)
  • The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and state law require that we give a state science exam once each in elementary, middle, and high school. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues those same requirements.
  • MDE will continue to give the SAT and the M-STEP Science and Social Studies for 11th Grade
  • The timeline for the New Michigan Science Standard assessment is:

-  Spring 2017 - Field Test New MSS aligned item clusters (Grades 5, 8, 11)
-  Spring 2018 - Field Test New MSS aligned item clusters (Grades 5, 8, 11)
-  Spring 2019 - Aligned MSS M-STEP assessment (No High Stakes accountability for this year) (Grades 5, 8, 11)
-  Spring 2020 - Fully operational MSS assessment (Start High Stakes accountability) (Grades 5, 8, 11) 

Major shifts in Science Assessment

Major shifts in Science Assessment

  • Move from Grade 4 & 7 to Grade 5 & 8
  • Practices embedded throughout
  • Grade 11 and Grade 8 tests to assess the entire band of standards (6-8 for 8th grade test ; 9-12 for 11th grade test)
  • Grade 5 test to assess 3-5 grade standards

Spring 2017 Science Assessment

Spring 2017 Science Assessment

Next Spring 2017, M-STEP will be aligned to our old science standards:

  • Students grades 4 and 7 will take M-STEP aligned to our old science standards (not our new Michigan Science Standards- Disciplinary Core Ideas).
  • Students grades 5 and 8 will take the new Michigan Science Standards (MSS) field test aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
  • 11th graders will take the old M-STEP (aligned to HSCE's) and the new MSS field test aligned to NGSS

There will be no accountability associated with the MSS field test assessment results. Full accountability to the new, fully implemented MSS assessment will be in 2020.

Again, the Spring 2017 M-STEP will not be aligned to the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas.

However, students who graduate in 2020 will be required to have mastered all the MSS performance expectations.

Michigan Science Assessments and High Stakes Accountability

Michigan Science Assessments and High Stakes Accountability

Tentative Assessment Plan (subject to change)

  • 2017 -- M-STEP aligned to old science standards.
  • 2018 -- Pilot 2 and 3 dimensional science items aligned to the new standards. No accountability.
  • 2019 -- Pilot 2 and 3 dimensional science items aligned to the new standards. No accountability.
  • 2020 -- Full implementation of the three-dimensional testing of the Michigan Science Standards

Three Dimensional Science Assessment Resources

Three Dimensional Science Assessment Resources

  1. The Next Generation Science Assessment project.  If you would like to try out the middle school assessment tasks that have been developed so far, please go to and  
  2. West Ed has developed the Item Cluster Prototypes for 5th grade and high school. For example, the HS PDF document is available at Item Cluster Prototype_FINAL.pdf.
  3. NSTA has some resources as well. Check out and

NGSS Evidence Statements:

NGSS Evidence Statements:

(Executive Summary) (Introduction and Overview) (Grades K-5) (Grades 6-8) (Grades 9-12)

NGSS Evidence Statements provide educators with additional detail on what students should know and be able to do. These Evidence Statements are statements of observable and measureable components that, if met, will satisfy NGSS performance expectations.

Science Assessment Item Collaborative

Science Assessment Item Collaborative 

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) brought together a group of interested states to create the Science Assessment Item Collaborative (SAIC). The purpose of this phase of work for the SAIC was to develop resources to support states in designing assessments aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). As you know, our newly adopted Michigan Science Standards are the Performance Expectations (PE's) from NGSS.

In partnership with WestEd, the SAIC developed these resources:

Additional resources will be made available in the future and can be found at

SAT, M-STEP Science Assessment and School Accountability

SAT, M-STEP science assessment, and school accountability:

  • Students who take the SAT will get a science score (this will not be used for school accountability)
  • Students will also take the science M-STEP (this will be used for school accountability)
  • The SAT science score can be used as part of the student's university application process
  • Again, the SAT science score will not be used as part of a school's accountability
  • Again, the Science M-STEP will be used as part of a school's accountability
How will the M-STEP science be factored into a school's focus or priority school status?

According to the Flexibility Waiver (p.101), Science M-Step scores will still be included within the school's accountability. This is also used in the identification and Top-to-Bottom Ranking for Priority schools ranking (not focus school ranking). The difference is that there were 5 subjects, now there are 4 because Writing and ELA are being combined.

Science is not counting toward Focus School Status any more. And, even though it does play into the Priority School status, it would be at a much reduced rate because this is based on the number of tests taken for each building. For example, if there is a building with just 6th, 7th, and 8th graders that have 100 students in each grade, there would be 300 math tests, 300 ELA tests, 100 science tests, and 100 social studies tests taken. So, science now counts 1/8 (100 science tests out of 800 tests given) of the overall ranking for priority school status.

In conclusion, science does NOT count toward focus school status. However, It does play in proportionally (as described above in the status of priority schools) based on the number of tests taken in a building. So for elementary and middle there are typically more ELA and Math tests taken than Science. In high school, the proportion should be about the same. Additionally, the Spring 2015 test scores are not affecting Focus or Priority school. The Spring 2016 tests will affect them.

Please go to if you would like Assessment Transition updates as weekly communications are posted there.

Here is some of the information from the BAA website:

Legislation was passed requiring the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to develop a new summative assessment for use in Spring 2015. Unlike the previous MEAP assessments, the new assessment will be aligned to Michigan standards, administered in the spring, and measure current year versus past year student knowledge. English language arts and mathematics will be assessed in grades 3-8 and 11. Science will be assessed in grades 4, 7, and 11; and social studies in grades 5, 8, and 11. 

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Linda Howley, Test Development Manager Office of Standards and Assessment Division of Accountability Services Michigan Department of Education (517) 241-2525.

Accountability email address and telephone number:

Your one stop shop for all topics and resources relating to district and school accountability in Michigan! The Michigan Department of Education's District and School Accountability initiatives are handled by: Office of Evaluation, Strategic Research and Accountability (OESRA)

Office Phone: (877) 560-8378

Office Email: MDE-Accountability@michigan.go

NGSS Sample Assessments

NGSS Sample Assessments

Achieve has released a new resource, the Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks. These sample tasks provide examples of how content from both the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Mathematics can be assessed together in classrooms. Each task focuses on a specific context or storyline and includes multiple components that work together to partially or fully assess a bundle of chosen standards (i.e., group of related standards from the CCSS and the NGSS). The purpose of these sample tasks is to provide some examples of how to meaningfully integrate the NGSS and CCSS in authentic ways in the context of classroom assessment. To aid educators in their own task development, the front matter of the sample classroom assessment tasks provides information about the tasks’ development process so additional tasks can be created to assess a bundle of both math and science standards.

The State Science Education Standards Comparison Tool is available on the NGSS website.


NAEP Resources

NAEP Sample Science Questions
NAEP Example of Interactive Computer Assessment
Smarter Balanced Assessment

NAEP Data Analysis

According to this NAEP data, guess what factor is the greatest predictor of science success? Those students that are more economically fortunate have a greater likelihood of success in science. But if we look closer at this data, there are several outliers that tell a different story.

  • Take a look at Kentucky and Oregon, they have a similar percentage of free or reduced price lunch students, but very different results; Oregon is one of the worst performing states, and Kentucky is one of the highest. Why?
  • One reason may be the difference in the amount of time teachers spend teaching science. In Oregon, they average 1.5 hrs./week compared to 3.8 hrs./week. So where is Michigan?
  • Comparing Michigan and Nevada, the lunch count should predict similar results, but they are separated by 9 points. Notice the amount of time they spend teaching science in each of these states, about a 1 hr. difference.
  • If Michigan elementary classrooms were to increase instruction to 4 hours / week (and the same pattern were to hold true) we should have the highest NAEP scores in the country.

What Is the Impact of Decline in Science Instructional Time in Elementary School?, Rolf K. Blank, Ph.D. Paper prepared for the Noyce Foundation, 2012

Impact of Decline in Science Instructional Time in Elementary School

4th Grade NAEP Science Scores Chart

If Michigan elementary classrooms were to increase instruction to 4 hours / week (and the same pattern were to hold true) we should have the highest NAEP scores in the country

Panel Recommends New Breed of Assessments for Science Learning

Panel Recommends New Breed of Assessments for Science Learning

Laying out a new vision for science assessments, a panel of the National Research Council proposed that states design testing systems that integrate several key types of science learning, and blend classroom-based assessments with state-level "monitoring" tests and gauges of students' "opportunity to learn."

The proposal, detailed in a 256-page report, offers an expert panel's ideas on how testing should change to fully reflect the Next Generation Science Standards adopted by eight states so far. The picture it paints departs markedly from current assessment practice, which tilts heavily toward students' knowledge of science facts, and typically takes place in one large-scale statewide exam each spring.

Instead, to gauge student learning, the panel recommends that states obtain feedback from three sources. One is ongoing, classroom-based, or "formative," assessments, which would draw students into building and refining scientific models, generating and analyzing data, and creating oral and written arguments about what they're learning.

The second source of information would be state-level "monitoring" tests that would be aimed at measuring how well students have learned the material over the course of a year, and that could be used to meet states' accountability needs.  

Finally, the panel says states should collect school-level information about resources that affect students' chances "to learn science in the ways laid out in the [NRC] framework and the [new science standards]," such as access to good instructional materials, the level of teachers' subject-matter expertise, and instructional approaches that allow students "of varying cultural and linguistic backgrounds" to access the material,