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DC Science Assessment

The DC Science Assessment is the District of Columbia’s statewide assessment of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). It is an online assessment that focuses on sense-making and problem solving in science. As students explore the NGSS learning standards, called Performance Expectations (PEs), they learn to make sense of natural phenomena and solve problems using approaches that scientists use.  During the test, students use scientific principles, skills, and behaviors to observe phenomena, generate questions, conduct investigations, create models, predict outcomes, analyze results, and engage in argumentation and communication. The DC Science Assessment presents students with tasks that are built around scientific phenomena as well as engineering design challenges. Tasks are arranged into clusters of items designed to address the NGSS three-dimensional approach to the application of knowledge and practice -- an approach that integrates Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI), Science and Engineering Practices (SEP), and Crosscutting Concepts (CCC). As students work through these multidimensional clusters of items, they use scientific principles, skills, and behaviors to make sense of scientific phenomena and propose solutions to engineering design problems.

DC Science Assessments are administered through Pearson TestNav, the same online platform that students use for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Much like PARCC, the DC Science Assessment offers a suite of testing accommodations and features to make the assessment accessible for all students.

The DC Science Assessment is administered to students in grades five and eight and to students enrolled in high school biology.

Test Design

The DC Science Assessment is designed to provide reliable and valid scores for sense-making and problem solving. Specifically, the assessment gathers evidence on how students use scientific principles, skills, and behaviors to make sense of phenomena and address real-world problems.

Consequently, the DC Science Assessment presents students with tasks based on phenomena or engineering challenges that elicit evidence of mastery of multi-dimensional performance as described in the NGSS Performance Expectations.

To better understand the structure and content of the assessment, the DC Science Assessment Design and Blueprints documents provide details about the assessment claim structures, test blueprints, and details of how the DC Science Assessment is designed to measure student learning in science.

Accessibility for All Students

OSSE is committed to providing equitable assessment opportunities for students in the District of Columbia. The DC Science Assessment includes a wide range of accommodations and accessibility features that can be administered to support students. More information can be found on OSSE’s Testing Accommodations page and the DC Science Assessment Design and Blueprints documents.

Practice Tests

Grades 5, 8, and high school biology DC Science Assessment Practice Tests are available on the DC Pearson Portal. These resources provide opportunities for students to become familiar with and practice using the online tools, navigation, and item types. Each test includes an online version, a paper accommodated version in PDF form, an answer key, and a rubric to use with the constructed response items.

Performance Level Descriptors

The DC Science Assessment Performance Level Descriptor (PLD) documents outline specific expectations of student performance. The PLDs delineate and provide examples of what a typical student within a performance level would know and be able to demonstrate from a content perspective. The PLDs show a progression of multidimensional performance across performance levels aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These documents can be useful to better understand the performance levels in the DC Science Assessment reports.

Educator Feedback

DC Science Assessment Content Panels

Teachers and administrators with science experience are invited to provide feedback through several events through the year (item review, performance level descriptor review, rangefinding, standard setting, etc.) Educators may sign up to be considered by completing this form.

Test Results

OSSE has posted public results from the 2019 DC Science and DLM state assessment administrations online. The data files provide aggregate state-, sector-, and school-level results. Results are available on the 2018-19 DC Science Assessment and DLM Results and Resources page.


Contact Information

Contact: Daniel Alcazar-Roman, Science Assessment Specialist
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 741-5991