Background Information about Standards and Targets:

The first step in creating assessments is to identify content standards that specify the fundamental concepts and principles you expect all of your students to know and understand. States, districts, and national organizations often provide standards to help teachers focus their curriculum. When you have determined which topics you wish to cover with your students, you can refer to these standards to align your curriculum with national and state visions of science education.

On the PALS Web site all of the performance assessment tasks are linked to the National Science Education Standards (NSES). These are science education standards for grades K-12 developed by the National Committee on Science Education to provide curricular and assessment guidance to science teaching practitioners throughout the country. The standards are both widely accepted and widely used, and therefore provide a good framework for the Web site. For grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 the NSES include the following content standard categories: Science as Inquiry, Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Science and Technology, Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, and History and Nature of Science.

Standards identify broad expectations for students. They are not task-specific and thus do not prescribe a curriculum. However, once standards are selected they can be used to frame specific curricular objectives or targets. Targets will ground all of the decisions concerning the assessment you will use--from the type of assessment, to the task design, to the scoring of the exercise. We suggest that you use the NSES as an example of the types of visions of academic success to shape your targets. However, your targets may be based on a different set of standards, such as state or district standards. The standards you select will influence the type of wording of the targets you develop.

When creating your targets, keep in mind that the broader the target, the more complex and broad the scope of the assessment tasks will need to be. Rick Stiggins, in his book Student-Centered Classroom Assessments, suggests that some of the benefits of defining good targets include:

  • Limiting teacher accountability: Others should have a clear understanding of your instructional responsibilities.
  • Limiting student accountability: Students are more likely to succeed when you define what your expectations are and help them internalize these expectations.
  • More manageable teacher workload: Clarifying what you want to assess helps you be more selective in choosing the most appropriate assessment questions without over-testing.

Stiggins also identified several types of important achievement targets that teachers aim to assess in the classroom. These include knowledge, reasoning, skill, and product targets as defined below:

  • Knowledge targets focus on the attainment of declarative knowledge (i.e., concepts, generalizations, facts about individuals and events) and procedural knowledge (i.e., steps for solving problems).
  • Product targets focus on the development of quality products such as papers, lab reports or presentations.
  • Reasoning targets focus on problem-solving, reasoning, and analyzing arguments.
  • Skill targets focus on the attainment of certain behaviors or skills (e.g., using lab equipment properly).

Finally, to build strong targets, instructional goals and standards must not be crafted in isolation. Colleagues, parents and other members of the community, national curriculum groups, state curriculum frameworks, and frameworks for international, national and state assessments should help you identify and set limits on the targets you create for your students. These resources can help you identify appropriate targets for your students. For other sources of information about standards and targets see the Additional Standards and Targets Resources section.