An examination of development of Wyoming's alternative assessment system, the body of evidence
Dowding, Sharla Kay
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The overarching purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the patterns of development and implementation of Body of Evidence (BOE) science systems throughout the state of Wyoming, using an emerging and relatively open mixed methods design. BOEs were first launched throughout Wyoming a decade ago, and are ongoing today. Through interviews with teachers and curriculum coordinators and analysis of BOE science plans, the following research questions were explored: 1) What design elements and implementation processes characterize BOE science assessment plans across Wyoming school districts? 2) What support do teachers receive to develop a BOE science plan, to align the plan to the state science education standards, and to implement the intended science plan? And 3) How do districts handle this opportunity to design and implement a locally useful assessment? Methods of data collection used in this mixed methods study began with a survey, conducted in Spring 2010, to investigate characteristics of the BOE systems being implemented within and across Wyoming school districts, followed by district case studies, implemented in Fall 2010, that included an interview with the curriculum coordinator and a science teacher in each district and a review of the BOE plan for that district. A total of 110 survey responses were received and analyzed. The six schools that participated in the interview component of the study represent a range of Wyoming school districts. The first set of themes reveals the ways BOE assessments and curriculums are aligned to state science teaching standards. The second set of themes depicts the nature of district support that is provided for the BOE development and implementation. Finally, because BOE is an ongoing process, a third theme was identified that discovered factors that affect the communication and support needed to sustain BOE implementation. The results presented from both the survey and case study interviews indicated that there is a great variation in how this state-mandated assessment requirement is implemented and sustained across school districts in Wyoming. It was obvious that the perceived levels and categories of support are different both from district to district and within districts.