Superintendent's Memo #160-11

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

June 10, 2011

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Participation in a Pilot of Computer-Interactive Biology and Chemistry Items for High School Students

The Virginia Department of Education, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin, the Center for Applied Linguistics, and Pacific Metrics Corporation, has been awarded an Enhanced Assessment Grant by the United States Department of Education. The grant, Assessing REAL Science on a Large-Scale Assessment: The Promise of Computer-Interactive Items for High School Students with Language Challenges, focuses on the development of innovative test items administered online in the content areas of biology and chemistry. A goal of the grant is to develop test items that will better measure complex science knowledge and skills of all high school students and especially those with language challenges such as students with learning disabilities in reading, limited English proficiency, or hearing impairments. These extended science performance tasks allow students to experience simulated laboratory experiments in an engaging interactive computer environment.

The Center for Applied Linguistics will conduct a pilot in late January and early February 2012 to investigate the effectiveness of these innovative test items in measuring students’ understanding of complex science skills. These innovative test items have been developed using the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) for biology and chemistry and the test will be delivered online via a computer. Testing sessions will last approximately 90 minutes and will include a tutorial to provide students with an orientation to the online testing environment, one extended science performance task, and 10 to 15 shorter test items.  Approximately 2,000 students are needed statewide each in biology and chemistry for the pilot. Details on training, technology requirements, incentives, and a proposed timeline are attached.

School divisions interested in participating will be required to meet the following requirements:

If you have questions, please contact the assessment staff via e-mail at or by phone at (804) 225-2102.



  1. REAL Science Pilot Details (PDF)