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2015 Assessment Study
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Executive Summary:
Sowing the Seeds: A Landscape Study on Assessment in Secondary Computer Science Education


This study summarizes what is known about assessment of student learning in high school Computer Science (CS) in the United States (US), reports on the results of the landscape study, and concludes with recommendations for advancing the state of assessment in K–12 CS. With support from Google, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Assessment Task Force conducted a study of secondary school educators to determine the state of computer science education assessment and how teachers assess student learning in their computer science classrooms. Based on interviews with computer science practitioners, we found that teachers use a variety of formative and summative assessment techniques, but also face a number of challenges finding valid and reliable assessments to use in their classrooms.

Quality assessment items are few and far between as teachers rely on a assortment of sources (test banks, colleagues, even their own undergraduate CS courses) to evaluate student learning in their classes. Furthermore, teachers in this study discussed how the unique nature of computer science, including how students approach algorithms to write their programs, makes assessment a challenging and time-consuming endeavor. The ubiquity of programs and code on the Internet also makes it difficult for teachers to accurately gauge what students know.

Given the challenges of assessment in computer science classrooms, we recommend that the computer science education community develops valid and reliable computer science assessments to evaluate student learning. Additionally, we recommend creating an online repository to allow computer science teachers access to high quality assessments. Given the availability of CSTA K–12 computer science standards since 2011, the time has arrived for the computer science education community to develop complementary assessments that match those standards. In summary, the CSTA Assessment Task Force recommends the following tasks for the computer science education community:
  • Develop valid and reliable assessments aligned to the CSTA K–12 Computer Science Standards
  • Develop valid and reliable formative and summative assessments for programming languages beyond Java, such as Python, C#, etc.
  • Develop an online repository of assessment items for K–12 computer science teachers
  • Develop a community of practice surrounding the use of assessment in computer science classrooms
  • Design and deliver professional development to increase K–12 computer science teachers' assessment literacy. In particular, train teachers to understand and implement classroom assessment.


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