Tiered Science Assessments

Is this possible in science?

While this site is generally focused on the application of CbC in math, our journey began in science.  It was the dramatic impact on learning and class culture in science classes that made us want to try CbC in math.

The first step we took while developing a tiered system of instruction and assessment in science was to think about the dimensions along which challenge may vary.  For example:

Vocabulary – going from green level “need to know” vocabulary to blue level “nice to know” vocabulary to black level “for those of you who are really motivated to go way beyond what’s expected” vocabulary.

Physical Application Complexity – while sometimes no more difficult to conceive on paper, certain experimental questions are far more difficult to carry out in practice.

Sophistication of Presentation – this would involve raising the complexity of non-science performance standards. Writing and technology skills come to mind as areas where students have varying degrees of readiness.

Content Exposure – topics that are repeated and taken much further in high school (like introductory chemistry or genetics units) offer opportunities for highly motivated students to learn advanced content in middle school.

Examples of Tiered Science Assessments

The assessments below have been used with 7th and 8th grade students. I have only seen them used a single time.  They aren’t meant to represent examples of best assessment practice in science.  My main reason for sharing them is to offer a starting point for teachers eager to give the Challenge by Choice approach a shot in their science classes.

Valid Experimental Design

Valid Experimental Design Written Test

Valid Experimental Design Performance Assessment

Valid Experimental Design Rubric


Energy Transfer Written Test

Energy Rubric

Body Systems

Body Systems Goal Sheet

Red Blood Cell Cartoon Project Description

Skeletal Systems Goal Sheet

Body Systems Test – Green

Body Systems Test – Blue

Body Systems Test – Black

Introductory Science Skills and Knowledge

Life Science Knowledge and Skills Goal Sheet

Life Functions Test

Types of Science Test

Inferences vs. Observations Test

Microscopes and Cells

Microscopes and Cells Goal Sheet

Updated Microscopes and Cells Goal Sheet

Louis Pasteur Reflection Assignment

Scientific Method

Scientific Method Goal Sheet

Scientific Method Written Test – Green

Scientific Method Written Test – Blue

Scientific Method Written Test – Black


Tiered Biology Lesson – Dr. Cheryll Adams


5 responses

25 09 2009

This was an awesome resource! Thank you for sharing!

9 03 2011

Has anyone adapted some of this to English or Language Arts?

22 02 2012
Bruce Stephen

Disappointed in the ‘Valid Experimental Design’ section. Though following the experimental design may be the key you’ll also have students thinking that adding salt actually does lower the boiling point of water when the opposite is true.

22 02 2012
David Suarez

Good point, Bruce. Sorry and thank you. I have mixed feelings about offering these assessments since I know they’re flawed in more ways than one. I’ve left them because I wanted to offer possibilities for what tiering in science might entail, but as far as providing model resources, these don’t suffice.

12 08 2012
Kathy Schwartzenberg

Thanks, This is a great starting point. I can take my standards and make sure that my lowest tier at least meets the requirements for my state standards and then I can offer more challenging activities for students who are ready.

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