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Facing The Realities Of "High Stakes" Testing While Keeping Science And Engineering Outreach Alive

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Philosophical Foundations, Frameworks, and Testing in K-12 Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.623.1 - 10.623.9



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Paper Authors

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Laura Nelson

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Keith Williamson

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Hassan Ndahi

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Sharon Waters

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Facing the realities of “high-stakes” testing while keeping science and engineering outreach alive Keith Williamson1, Hassan Ndahi2, Sharon Waters3, Laura Nelson4 1 East Carolina University/ 2Old Dominion University/3Tidewater Community College/ 4 Portsmouth City Public Schools


This paper discusses the impact of high-stakes testing on the K12 outreach experiences of science and engineering graduate students. As the use of accountability systems continue to evolve as a basis for measuring the performance of schools, there is a threat to meaningful science and engineering outreach since teachers often use the results of high-stakes assessment as their primary reference point for evaluating the merit of innovative teaching practices and career induction experiences for students. We found that science and engineering outreach activities combined with teacher professional development seminars and a socio-constructivist framework for teaching provide an effective approach for limiting the use of accountability systems as the sole reference for success. Similarly, the approach helped teachers cope with the pressures of high-stakes testing while conducting professional experimentation to change their attitudes and beliefs about science and engineering topics. Specifically, the use of graduate students as content-resources in classrooms creates a collaborative environment that encourages teachers to avoid tendencies to narrow curriculum standards and spend large amounts of instructional time preparing students for high-stakes tests.

1. Introduction

For decades, the main strategy for engineering outreach involved activities designed to motivate and attract students using the wonder and excitement inherent in the processes of design and discovery. Typically, matters related to curriculum alignment were left to the classroom teacher and university faculty involved in the outreach. Beginning in the 70s, the importance of statewide and national accountability testing in the U.S. has risen steadily. In the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), No Child Left Behind1 the federal government signaled a further increase in the use of accountability systems to measure student performance. In effect, the NCLB mandates that schools meeting accountability standards be given bonuses2 and schools not meeting these goals first be given assistance then later sanctions such as loss of crucial state or federal funding. This emphasis on the preparation for and the results of accountability tests has changed the school environment for partnerships between university faculty and classroom teachers. For struggling schools, assistance often involves intervention in terms of new leadership designated as “turn-around specialists” to reverse organizational behavior patterns believed to contribute to the failure to meet accountability standards. In some schools, these specialists exacerbate teacher turnover,

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright©2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Nelson, L., & Williamson, K., & Ndahi, H., & Waters, S. (2005, June), Facing The Realities Of "High Stakes" Testing While Keeping Science And Engineering Outreach Alive Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14262

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