This spring (2021) Maine Department of Education will usher in the new Maine science assessment based, for the first time, on the Maine science and engineering standards, i.e. NGSS, adopted in April 2019. In a year of firsts, the general science assessment will also go online under the direction of a new vendor, New Meridian. This new format will allow for greater flexibility over the coming years. In the short term, changes of note include a greater focus on science and engineering practices along with the application of knowledge rather than rote recall. Questions will mostly occur in clusters around a common problem or process. The assessment will continue to focus on the performance expectation level, yet under Maine’s new science standards these are three-dimensional performance expectations that incorporate science practices and crosscutting concepts with disciplinary core ideas/content.

The Maine science assessment in collaboration with New Meridian will provide Maine students in grades 5, 8, and the third year of high the opportunity to demonstrate the science principles and practices that they know and can do as they prepare to navigate an increasingly technical world. With the adoption of new science standards, educators are charged with the goal of increasing the depth of instruction and student learning through a focus on critical inquiry and application. The Maine Science assessment is closely aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This assessment was selected to provide an opportunity for Maine educators and SAUs to administer a high-quality science assessment aligned to three-dimensional science standards.

Due to time constraints, the Year-1 administration of the New Meridian, MEA science assessments will consist of summative assessment items and clusters licensed from the New Meridian Science Exchange. Launched in 2019, the New Meridian Science Exchange, a participatory science assessment item bank that facilitates sharing of science content. The science exchange includes over 600 science items for grades 5, 8, and high school that are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned content from multiple states, as well as items developed by New Meridian. All of this content is reviewed by New Meridian content experts to ensure that every item measures multiple dimensions of the NGSS. This includes a focus on the Disciplinary Core Ideas, the Science and Engineering Practices, and the Cross-Cutting Concepts outlined in the Performance Expectations of the NGSS. The assessment also contains a number of different item types, including multiple choice, multiple select, technology enhanced, and constructed response. These item types allow for a deeper investigation of the three dimensions of the NGSS and allow students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do at each grade level.

This new assessment will be administered online, with paper-versions as an accommodation. New Meridian subcontracts with MZD, who provides the platform for assessment administration. The online platform is provided by MZD’s ADAM Assessment Delivery and Management Platform, built by MZD flexible, scalable, and secure tools engineered for the real-world needs of educators, and designed to uniquely enable more authentic measurements of students’ knowledge and skills. There is no remote model of the new Science Assessment.

SAUs should keep in mind that the duration of the assessment window for the Maine science assessment is only two instructional weeks and the shortest of the Spring 2021 assessment windows. SAUs are encouraged to schedule assessments throughout the entire window, while considering the health and safety precautions required under the circumstances of the pandemic. For example, in hybrid instructional models, students could be scheduled to participate in the assessment on days that they are already receiving instruction in person. Additional staff to support may be required to meet the challenges of assessing all students within the administration window.