The Anatomy of…a TEKS Social Studies Item
At Progress Testing, we produce one of the only TEKS Social Studies and Science formative assessment item banks available in Texas. We build each item to discretely match the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) with the rigor of the STAAR. Here’s how we build a Social Studies item for Texas.
Reviewing the Standards
For each project we work on, we build a spreadsheet of all standards using documents provided on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website, which enables us to view standards throughout all grades from a central database and search throughout grades to determine when certain topics are introduced or expanded upon.
When preparing to write for a standard, we carefully consider the scope of the standard we are covering while also considering if certain elements of the topic have been previously covered in lower grades.
Consulting Available Resources
TEKS and STAAR resources provided by TEA refresh our understanding of expectations for Texas Social Studies and provide invaluable information regarding accepted item types and Texas-specific style. Additionally, these resources provide sample items that help us understand the types of items preferred by Texas educators as well as overviews of DOK-level expectations and examples of items for each level.
We use all of the resources we can find to better assess the TEKS. In addition to TEA resources, we utilize teacher lesson plans, textbooks, district pacing guides, and additional available resources to dig deeper into topics and gain a more complete view of the material being tested. We also solicit input from Texas educators.
We first determine the scope of the item we wish to write. We then develop a clear, direct stem that enables students to utilize their knowledge and skills to come to a conclusion. Next, we create a strong, unambiguous correct answer that students well versed in the material will be able to recognize as the best response to the question given.
NOTE: We construct reasonable distractors that pull from material associated with the standard being tested as well as material covered in previous standards and grades — the goal being that each potential response is able to be fully evaluated by a student, with its feasibility as a correct response determined by using skills and knowledge acquired up to that point in their Social Studies education.
We ensure that all items adhere to the principles of our in-house editorial style guide, guaranteeing that all items are properly formatted and structured, avoiding outliers (length/style/etc.) to ensure that all answer choices are considered and evaluated equally by students.
We incorporate stimuli into items whenever possible so as to engage students and hone their ability to recognize and analyze primary and secondary resources, as well as their ability to evaluate information and draw conclusions rooted in Social Studies skills.
As part of our effort to incorporate stimuli whenever possible, we rely on our graphics team to help us utilize existing photographs, posters, political cartoons, and other types of images to enhance our items and provide different avenues through which to test students’ knowledge and abilities.
Additionally, our graphics team is able to create for us any type of image we need or can dream up. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, maps and diagrams related to the specific TEKS being covered or enhancements to poor-quality historical images.
Adding Process Skills
We consult the TEKS and STAAR documentation in order to add process skills related to the ways in which a student is expected to evaluate the information provided and arrive at the correct answer.
Determining DOK Level
In addition to the aforementioned resources provided by TEA that outline expectations for each DOK level, we also utilize Hess/Bloom’s Cognitive Rigor Matrix to determine the appropriate DOK level for each item we create. We also add Bloom’s tags to each item that correspond with the particular level and the skills involved in answering the question presented.
Review and Revision
All resources mentioned above (including TEA guides and our in-house editorial style guide) are utilized as each item is carefully reviewed and revised by multiple editors in the Social Studies department beyond the item’s writer.
Considering Bias and Sensitivity
We consider all issues related to bias and sensitivity as they pertain to our items to ensure that no aspect of any item is prejudicial toward any student and that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed when attempting to answer the item with which they are presented.
In compliance with the American Educational Research Association’s 2014 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, all passages and items undergo a bias and sensitivity review.
Consulting EDL Core Vocabulary Resources
Also utilized during the writing phase, these vocabulary resources allow us to ensure that all language used in an item is grade-level appropriate, which is essential to constructing a question that is both challenging and fair for students.
These three steps are repeated multiple times, with open and honest discussion between editors throughout the process to ensure that any item we release is of the highest possible quality.
Peer Review and Completion
Editors from outside the Social Studies department examine the item with fresh eyes, making any necessary grammatical edits, raising any concerns regarding the item, and providing suggestions for further improvement.
The Social Studies department addresses all changes, concerns, and suggestions, then reviews, approves, and completes all final edits.
Editorial Process Flowchart
For more detail about how we work, check out our full editorial process illustrated in the flowchart below.