A SUMMARY OF "A COGNITIVE AND DEVELOPMENTAL ANALYSIS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON'S SCIENCE ESSENTIAL ACADEMIC LEARNING REQUIREMENTS" by Donald C. Orlich, SMEEC, WSU, Pullman, WA 99164-4237
Method. The Washington State "Science Essential Academic Learning Requirements" (EALRs) for grades 5, 8 and 10 were analyzed item by item. Used to analyze each benchmark were (1) Bloom's taxonomy, (2) Epstein/Piaget tables of developmental growth and (3) scales from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Findings. At grade 5 between 31% and 41% of the science benchmarks were ranked at the formal or analytic thinking levels. According to Epstein/Piaget between 5 and 12% of children are at those cognitive levels. The NAEP data estimates show about 8% of the nation's 5th graders can answer the higher level questions.
At grade 8 between 40% and 62% of the science benchmarks were ranked at the formal or analytical thinking levels. Between 20 and 24 % of 8th graders are at that Epstein/Piaget level. On the NAEP about 12% can respond correctly to the higher level questions.
The analysis of grade 10 benchmarks had 92.5% at formal thinking on the Epstein/Piaget levels. However, only 31 to 36% of 10th graders are actually at those levels. (This was the greatest disconnect between levels.) At least 47% of the items were judged to be at the highest levels on the NAEP scales. Using national data, the estimated percentage of 10th graders who could answer correctly at these levels would be between 5 and 32%.
Conclusions. 1. The science EALRS are very difficult due to the relatively high cognitive and developmental levels at which they are prescribed. 2. Without laboratory or activity-oriented science at all instructional levels, students are very much "at-risk." 3. Extremely high failure rates on the science components of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) may be predicted.
Predicted Student Failure Rates. Below are three sets of predicted failure rates for the Science WASL that was piloted tested at grades 5, 8 and 10 in the spring of 2001.
Most Optimistic Failure Estimates: Grade 5, 50-54 percent; Grade8, 46-50 percent; and Grade 10, 45-49 percent.
Most Probable Failure Estimates: Grade 5, 55-59 percent; Grade 8, 50-54 percent; and Grade 10, 50-54 percent.
Most Pessimistic Failure Estimates: Grade 5, 63-67 percent; Grade 8, 60-64 percent; and Grade 10, 60-64 percent.
A Challenge. The analytic tools and model used by the writer are open to all to challenge the analysis and conclusions stated in the paper. It is the author's desire is to create rational and empirically tested standards, not arbitrarily and intuitively derived outcomes.