Translating Standards to Practice:
A Teacher's Guide to Use and Assessment of the Alaska Science Standards
ulus  Introduction

Translating Standards to Practice: A Teacher’s Guide to Assessment of the Alaska Science Standards were developed by Alaska educators and members of the business, native, and scientific communities to help promote scientific literacy and understanding for Alaska science students. As such, they were written to enhance, complement, and integrate the Alaska Science Content Standards and the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools to further education in the sciences. These standards borrow heavily from the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1995) as well as the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS, 1993) and are intended to help teachers provide students with an integrated and comprehensive understanding of science.


Additionally, they were written to help enhance student understanding of Alaska culture, including the traditional and the scientific, and how they relate to one another. Teaching how the traditional and scientific relate to one another, through the use of Translating Standards to Practice: A Teacher’s Guide to Assessment of the Alaska Science Standards, can provide an exciting and educational process that will invoke a sense of pride and self confidence in both students and teachers. The standards were developed collaboratively by the Alaska State Department of Education & Early Development and the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative, with funding generously provided by the National Science Foundation.

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In 1994 the Alaska Science Content Standards were published with the goal of defining what students should know and be able to do in science by the time they complete their

K–12 public education experience. These guidelines elaborate the expectations regarding student achievement and explain how well students should understand important scientific concepts and skills and how they relate to the environment around them. Corresponding assessments, supporting classroom ideas, and samples of student work were added to show how they might fit in a curriculum. These illustrate what meeting the standard may look like in the classroom. The sample assessments, which are in measurable terms, with a scoring guide, have been provided. The assessments can then be used to provide feedback to the students about how well they are meeting expectations. The assessments are also feedback to educators about how well their students are learning and how well they are meeting the Alaska Science Content Standards.


It is important to note that these guidelines, assessments, and procedures were written illustratively—as ideas—not mandates. It should also be understood that this document is intended to help provide guidance to districts through the examples provided as they make choices regarding which standards to focus on at various benchmark age levels, as well as what aspects of the standards are focused on and when. The standards were written to reflect the diversity and richness of Alaska that makes teaching Alaskan students so exciting. Therefore, teachers may use them as guidelines for writing their own performance assessment activities or simply as examples to better understand particular aspects of the content standards at benchmark age levels. The standards were written to provide ideas relating to the wisdom of the cultural traditions of the Elders as well as the technological advances of the scientific community, bridging the gap between science and cultural practices to make learning more fun and appealing.

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About This Document

This document presents an expanded view of the content standards for Alaska students. Performance standard statements have been written at each benchmark age level (5–7, 8–10, 11–14, 15–18). However, this document is really a “sampler” as examples of the expanded performance assessments, corresponding procedures, scoring guides, and in a very few cases, sample mini-units (elaborated classroom units), are provided for only a portion of the Alaska Science Content Standards—A, B, C, and D. The schematic shown below and “definitions” of the components of the document illustrate how the document is organized. The electronic version can be accessed via the Alaska Native Knowledge Network website at Cross references to other pertinent Alaska standards, as well as to the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy, have been provided to show connections and further illuminate the intention of the Alaska Science Content Standards.


This document does not provide a list of mandated understandings and skills. The content standards provide a broad overview of essential learnings. The four domains described in the A, B, C, and D statements are elaborated by the key elements and describe what we agree are essential to the discipline and should be learned by all students in Alaska. The specific dimension of the content standards that should be taught and the performance to show mastery are the choice of the district, community, school, or classroom, not the document. This document is a guide for making the choice at the local level.

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Content Standard

What Alaskans want students to know and be able to do as a result of their public schooling.

Key Element

An important focus within a content standard.

Performance Standard

An example of how students at a specific age level demonstrate proficiency and understanding of a content standard focus (key element).

Sample Assessment Idea

A potential task designed to assess a student’s proficiency and understanding of a performance standard.


Expanded Assessment Idea

A sample assessment idea elaborated to include procedure, reflection and revision, and level of performance.


Step-by-step instructions to guide the implementation of an expanded assessment idea.

Reflection and Revision

A final step of procedure, which represents a collection of brief ideas or methods, intended to strengthen, clarify, and improve student understanding and proficiency.

Level of performance

A task-specific scoring guide used to assess how well students meet the performance standard.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why was Translating Standards to Practice: A Teacher’s Guide to Assessment of the Alaska Science Standards document written?

It was prepared to:

  • elaborate the Alaska Science Content Standards to more fully explain what students need to know and are able to do;
  • help guide curriculum development in schools and districts;
  • provide sample developmentally appropriate activities for each standard;
  • provide educators with innovative performance assessment activities.

What are Performance Standards?

Performance standards define the nature of the evidence and quality to which a student understands the content standards.

What makes performance standards different from content standards?

The content standards are designed to broadly define what scientific concepts, skills, and applications are to be taught in Alaska’s schools, whereas these guidelines are more detailed definitions of how well students need to know the science and what they ought to be able to do with that knowledge.


What are performance assessments?

Performance assessments help define how well students:

  • understand science;
  • show what they can do;
  • relate science to society;
  • communicate knowledge

by providing performance opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding.

Why should I use performance activities with my students?

  • To document student progress in meeting the Alaska Science Content Standards.
  • To help students become accountable for their learning.
  • To provide opportunities for students to learn by “doing.”
  • To give students a variety of opportunities to show that they can “meet” the content standards.

What if I can’t use a particular performance assessment in my classroom?

The performance assessments were written as sample suggestions. You may use them as models for writing your own performance assessment activities.

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