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High School Science Assessment
Frequently Asked Questions
January 2007; Updated October 2007

  1. Q. Why is the department changing the way it assesses student achievement in science?

A. The department is currently engaged in serious discussions about high school redesign.  Part of this discussion focuses on requiring specific courses for all students and implementing assessments of student achievement that are more closely aligned to course content. As a member of the American Diploma Project (ADP), New Jersey is one of 26 states moving towards requiring all high school students to take specific courses in mathematics and science and redesigning high school assessments to include end-of-course tests.  

  1. Q. When will the end-of-course biology/life science assessment be administered?

A. The end-of-course assessment will be administered for the first time in late May 2008.  This will be the first and only administration planned for the 2007-2008 school year.

  1. Q. Why did the department choose biology/life science for the first end-of-course assessment?

A. In 2005, the department surveyed all public high schools to determine local graduation requirements.  Based on the 2005 graduating class, 70 percent of the schools responding required all students to take a course in biology/life science.  A much smaller percentage of schools required chemistry, physics, earth science, or other science courses.

  1. Q. Which students are required to participate in the end-of-course assessment in May 2008?

A. All high school students enrolled in any first year biology/life science course during the 2007-2008 school year must participate in the end-of-course assessment regardless of year in high school.

All New Jersey public high school students, regardless of grade level, who are enrolled in a biology course any time during the 2007-2008 school year, must take the End of Course Biology Test. The following course titles are included as exemplars:

  • Resource Center Biology
  • Foundations in Biology
  • ESL Biology
  • College Prep Biology
  • General Biology
  • Honors Biology
  • Life Science
  • Accelerated Biology
  • Advanced Placement Biology *
  • Integrated Science *

  • Students taking AP Biology, without having completed a Biology prerequisite must take the May 2008 End of Course Biology Test.

  • Students taking AP Biology, after completingBiology prerequisite, must not take the May 2008 End of Course Biology Test.

  • Students taking Integrated Science as an alternative to the biology offerings listed above must take the May 2008 End of Course Biology Test.

  • Students taking Integrated Science as a prerequisite course for a Biology elective must not take the May 2008 End of Course Biology Test.  These students will take the End of Course Biology Test during the school year that they are enrolled in the Biology elective.
  1. Q. What happens if a student “fails” the first administration of the end-of-course exam?  Will he/she be required to take the test again?  Will students be expected to repeat the course?

A. No.Students who fail to achieve proficiency on the Spring 2008 biology/life science assessment will not be required to take the test again; the district may recommend that the student repeat the course.  In the coming months, the department will be developing an alternate assessment option to replace the current SRA; this alternate program will address each of the HSPA content areas as well as the biology end-of-course assessment.

  1. Q. My school runs a semesterized block schedule with four courses offered each semester.  Some students will complete the biology/life science course in early January 2008.  When will those students take the end-of-course assessment?

A. For the 2007-2008 school year, the assessment will only be offered on May 19, 2008.  In future years, the department will consider the viability of multiple administrations to address block scheduling. 

  1. Q. Are students taking Advanced Placement (AP) Biology required to take this assessment in 2008?

A. Students taking AP Biology as their first high school life sciences/biology course in 2007-2008 must take the Biology End of Course assessment, in the 2007-2008 administration.  Students who are taking AP Biology in 2007-2008 as their second high school course in life sciences/biology do not take the Biology End of Course test.

  1. Q. Will schools be required to include a student’s score on the end-of-course biology/life science assessment in his/her course grade?

A. No.

  1. Q. What accommodations will be made for students with disabilities?

A. Accommodations for students with disabilities should be outlined in the students’ IEP. Students with disabilities will receive the same accommodations for which they would be eligible under the HSPA.

  1. Q. What accommodations will be made for limited English proficient students?

A. LEP students will receive the same accommodations for which they would be eligible under the HSPA.

  1. Q. We offer integrated science courses rather than science subject-specific courses.  When should students take the assessment?

A.  Students taking Integrated Science as an alternative to the biology offerings listed above must take the May 2008 End of Course Biology Test.

Students taking Integrated Science as a prerequisite course for a Biology elective must not take the May 2008 End of Course Biology Test.  These students will take the End of Course Biology Test during the school year that they are enrolled in the Biology elective. Only students who take a biology course should take the end-of-course biology/life science assessment.

  1. Q. Will these changes impact the administration of the NJASK 4 in science or the NJASK 8 Science?

A.  No, the NJASK 4 in science and the NJASK 8GEPA Science will continue to be administered as planned.  The department does not intend to implement end-of-course exams in grades K-8. 

  1. Q. When will the results be made available to schools?

A.  The results will be released during the summer of 2008.

  1. Q. How should my school prepare for this new approach to statewide testing?

A.  The statewide graduation survey indicated that 70 percent of high schools currently require all students to take and pass a biology/life science course in order to graduate.  Any district that does not specifically require all students to take biology/life science, should consider adding this requirement for all students.  The district should examine its current biology/life science courses to ensure that they are aligned to the NJCCCS in Science, including the Biology/Life Science Course Clarification.   Schools will need to consider scheduling issues as all students should be required to enroll in a biology/life science course no later than the beginning of grade 11.  The district may also want to enhance professional development opportunities for science teachers.  Finally, the district should communicate these new requirements to all teachers as well as to students and their parents/guardians.

  1. Q. As a science teacher, what should I do to prepare my students for these changes?

A.  Be advised that the 2008 biology/life science end-of-course assessment will be aligned to the  NJCCCS for Science, including the expanded standards and new indicators that are under development, and that existing items from the HSPA science pool may be used as part of the end-of-course biology assessment.

  1. Q. How will these changes impact the NJCCCS for Science?

A.  The department, in consultation with high school science teachers and supervisors, have developed a Biology/Life Science Course Clarification document to assist schools with these changes.  Resources and materials are available electronically on the department’s website http://www.nj.gov/education/assessment/.   Chief school administrators and high school principals must make sure that the information is disseminated to science supervisors and teachers in a timely manner.  The department will also offer technical assistance sessions during the 2007-2008 school year.

  1. Q. My district offers a biology course to students in grade 8.  Will those students be permitted to take the end-of-course assessment to fulfill a high school graduation requirement?

A.  In order for students in grade 8 to achieve proficiency on the high school biology/life science end-of-course assessment, the curriculum and instructional program must clearly align to the high school courses and the NJCCCS for Science in grades 9-12.  This means that grade 8 students must have instructional experiences, including access to laboratory or field experiences, that are comparable to students enrolled in the high school course, and that the teachers must hold the appropriate certification in biological science.   N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii(2) permits students to achieve graduation credit for courses taken prior to entering high school through the demonstration of proficiency on such an exam.  In a K-12 district, this may be a simple formality; however, in a sending-receiving relationship, district boards of education will need to develop policies and procedures to identify students eligible to take the exam, administer the exam, and determine how to document the results and communicate them to the high school. 

  1. Q. How will the department inform schools and teachers of additional changes?

A.  The department will post memorandums and new resources on the NJDOE website at www.nj.gov/education.  Chief school administrators and high school principals must share the information with test coordinators, guidance departments, science supervisors, and teachers.

  1. Q. Does the department plan to develop and administer end-of-course assessments in other sciences?  If so, which ones?

A.  The department has no immediate plans for additional end-of-course assessments in other sciences; however, in keeping with the goals of the American Diploma Project, the department may in the future consider the development of additional end-of-course assessments in the other science disciplines. 

  1. Q. Does the department plan to develop and administer end-of-course assessments in other content areas?

A.  The department is working with the ADP consortium to develop an optional end-of-course assessment in Algebra II.  The test is still in its early stages.  The department will be implementing additional end-of-course assessments in the coming years as part of its redesign of the statewide high school assessment system.

  1. Q. When does the department plan to change the graduation requirements?  What changes are proposed?

A.  In the coming months the department will make further announcements about its timetable for making revisions to high school graduation requirements and their review and adoption by the State Board of Education.

  1. Q. What course titles count as biology/life science?

A.  Courses that match the content of the NJCCCS for science and any clarifications of the biology/life science standards will count.  Consult the DOE web site for a biology/life sciences course clarification and additional guidance on biology assessment policy: http://www.nj.gov/education/aps/cccs/science/.