Evaluation and Assessment

Do science tests test science?

If the correlation between the state ELA test and science test is 0.87, is the science test testing science or the ablilty to read?


I noticed a strong correlation between my student's ability to read (based on the state ELA test - FL) and how well they do on tests in my middle school science classes. As a new teacher (this is the start of my third year), I thought maybe this was just my imagination or specific to my school, so I decided to analyze more data. I am not a statician, but I made scatter plots and then calculated the R2 values for the following data sets (Hillsborough County FL - Spring 2018 - 8th grade):

Science vs. ELA: 0.87

Science vs. Math: 0.52

ELA vs. Math: 0.45


I understand that correlation does not equal causation, but what does it mean? Again, is the science test testing science or is it just a second ELA test with a few extra science vocabulary words?


I know that my students are learning, but their struggle with basic vocabulary words means they often can't show what they know on a test that uses grade level vocabulary. I don't like the idea of teaching to a test, but at the end of the day, I get judged on whether I am an effective science teacher based on a single test score that [is supposed to] covers science concepts from 6-8th grade. 


Any thoughts? Is there anything I can do as a science teacher to boost my student's test scores?


With constant talk about school grades and science always getting the worst score, I feel very discouraged...

Rebecca Wilson
Rebecca Wilson
150 Activity Points

Rebecca - This is a very interesting research topic! I think it justifies a true research approach, if anyone is looking for a research project. I think inherently science requires reading skills. If you look at the core skills of scientific literacy, many of them are based upon reading skills. For example:

  • to identify a valid scientific argument, you must be able to read and comprehend the argument
  • to evaluate the validity of sources, you must read sources to investigate voice, use of jargon, etc. 
  • to evaluate the use and misuse of scientific information, you must often read the scientific information in a text-heavy format

Interesting question and I think it deserves a deeper analysis. I encourage you to post this question in the Research in Science Education forum. 

Emily Faulconer
Emily Faulconer
4630 Activity Points

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