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Improving students’ use of argumentation is front and center in the increasing emphasis on scientific practice in K-12 Science and STEM programs. We explore the construct validity of scenario-based assessments of claim-evidence-reasoning (CER) and the structure of the CER construct with respect to a learning progression framework. We also seek to understand how middle school students progress. Establishing the purpose of an argument is a competency that a majority of middle school students meet, whereas quantitative reasoning is the most difficult, and the Rasch model indicates that the competencies form a unidimensional hierarchy of skills. We also find no evidence of differential item functioning between different scenarios, suggesting that multiple scenarios can be utilized in the context of a multi-level assessment framework for measuring the impacts of learning experiences on students’ argumentation.