New Meridian was proud to sponsor the National Conference on Student Assessment (NCSA) in Atlanta late last month and to see several New Meridian experts presenting on stage. 

During the three-day event we were able to connect with other industry leaders, share our mission to advance equity in education, and participate in two symposia sessions. 

Director of Science Chris Lazzaro and Science Content Manager Velma Itamura presented Advancing Innovation through Collaboration: A New Approach to Next Generation Science Assessment from the State Perspective. Vice President of Product Strategy Kristopher John also participated in a panel.  

“We were very happy with the outcome in Atlanta,” said Arthur VanderVeen, founder and CEO of New Meridian. “When the assessment community engages in deep discussion, everyone wins.” 

Next-Generation Science Assessment 

During their presentation, Lazzaro and Itamura gave an overview of the New Meridian Science Exchange and the benefits it provides to contributing and subscribing states.  

The Science Exchange provides states with simple and cost-effective access to high-quality assessment items aligned to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The exchange allows states flexible options such as drawing from a bank of test items to create NGSS-aligned assessments or contributing items to the bank to produce licensing revenue. The result is a safe and effective system that dramatically expedites modern science assessment. 

The session began with Lazzaro outlining the major roadblocks states are facing that led to the creation of the New Meridian Science Exchange. “The first big thing was cost,” Lazzaro said. “How can we keep costs down? The next was time. It takes a long time to actually develop this content and we felt the exchange was a way to be able to implement an assessment relatively quickly. And then expertise. It really does require quite a bit of expertise to create three-dimensional science assessments.” 

The New Meridian Science Exchange works by enabling states to contribute and exchange science assessment items, increasing the supply of operationally ready test questions that are aligned to three-dimensional science standards. “It’s kind of like this bridge,” Lazzaro said.  “We bring together those that have things and those that need things and we created a common marketplace.”  

Subscribing states like Maine have seen an immediate impact from joining the Exchange, getting NGSS-aligned assessments up and running in just a matter of months. “We can do it very quickly,” Lazzaro said “In fact, in Maine, we signed the contract in February of 2019 and we administered an exam only three months later.” 

Lazzaro and Itamura were joined by Alissa Kilpatrick, director of assessment for the Louisiana Department of Education, who gave a firsthand account on the thought process behind participating in the Science Exchange as a contributing state.  

“We didn’t hesitate to go into this agreement with New Meridian,” she said, adding that the state was confident in the level of security and how items would be handled.  

Kilpatrick went on to summarize the three core benefits of being a contributing state, beginning with the opportunity to recoup part of the state’s science development costs through royalties from contributed items. This led to her second benefit: “We really want to build up additional forms. That’s a goal of our state, so having this little bit of extra money in our pocket allows us to do that.”  

Lastly, she discussed New Meridian’s item reporting framework that helps contributing states to fully understand their science assessment content. “It’s really good to have this additional perspective from a third party, putting these items up against the framework so we can see where the holes are in our bank, what are we missing, and where can we target development going forward.” 

Range Level Descriptors 

In the second session, John participated in a panel on Persistently Embedded Item-RALD Alignment: An Instructionally Supportive Model for Test. During his portion of the session, John outlined a prototype for a high school graduation exam with student and teacher reporting that made use of range achievement level descriptors (RALDs). RALDs are intended to reflect the evidence-based range of cognitive-skills associated with student growth and sophistication on increasingly difficult tasks. 

“My primary design use case was to develop an individual score report,” he said. “That actually created a clear action plan for students to improve their level and score using their individual profile of test responses, and that’s something that the use of the range level descriptors and that ESS [Embedded Standard Setting] processes can help enable.” 

The next step, he said, was group reports that teachers could use to support students achieving at different levels. This detailed reporting would allow students to tailor a study plan to their individual needs when it comes to retaking the exam. Teachers would receive the benefit of a class report that allows them to group students by similar learning profiles and skill sets. The result is more beneficial exam results that lead to an efficient study plan for all stakeholders in the process. 

“We are able to leverage the additional information and coherence that’s provided by this process in order to provide greater instructional utility in reports, and then we can enhance it even further,” John said.  

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