Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March Math Council

"Assessment should be the servant of teaching and learning. Without information about their students’ skills, understanding, and individual approaches to mathematics, teachers have nothing to guide their work.” Mokros, Russell, and Econompoulous

To guide our prescriptive teaching for students and to track students' learning, Chets Creek, from its inception, has given a diagnostic assessment in mathematics. Before the doors opened in 1998, the founding principal, Terri Stahlman, assembled a team of teachers to write a summative assessment, a final exam if you will, covering the state standards in Mathematics, designed to be given three times a year--at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. This diagnostic in mathematics has continued to be a cornerstone of our work. In addition, over the years, it has also become a predictive instrument for how students will score on our state standardized testing.

The beginning assessment allows our teachers to get a baseline of student's knowledge upon entering a grade level, and gives teachers aligned data to build class plans of instruction. We set 80% as the cut off. If 80% of the students master a skill/concept, then the teacher doesn't spend time on the whole group instruction. To meet the needs of the 20% or fewer, she uses small group instruction to teach the concepts and skills not yet mastered. If fewer than 80% of students mastered the skill/concept, the teacher plans and implements instruction for the whole group.

At mid-year the teacher gives the same assessment. She analyzes the results to ensure that students are retaining information. She builds class plans for whole group and small group instruction. She is able to track student's progress to share strengths and weaknesses with a parent. In addition, the teacher is able to compare her data to her colleagues and share best practices in instruction. We also have the added bonus, because we've aligned the diagnostics with our state standardized scores, to predict how well we will perform on our FCAT assessment given three months after mid-year administration.

The end of the year assessment is given to prove that each student has mastered at least 80% of the content and has the proper foundation for moving into the next grade level. We do not use the information as a retention tool, rather just as information for the parent and the school.

Each step of this assessment is given to inform teaching and learning. But, we know, the data gathered from the assessment is only as good as the assessment itself. For the assessment to serve each of these purposes, it must be aligned with our state standards, curriculum, and instruction. For us, looking into next year, this is where the issue lies. Our state has rewritten and adopted new math standards, and the math state standardized assessment will reflect the changes. To compound the issue, our district is also in the process of adopting a new math curriculum. Therefore, our instruction and our assessment must be altered to reflect these changes. This was the topic of our Math Council last week.

Each math lead was charged with cross referencing their current math diagnostic assessment with the New Generation Standards to figure out how much work needed done on the assessment to align it. Then, the leads will work in teams on a TDE day to keep the assessment questions that align with the new standards, throw out the questions that are no longer covered, and write questions for standards that have been added. Of course the writing of the assessment is only the beginning. After that, answer keys will need to be created, individual student profiles will need to be developed, and EXCEL spreadsheets will need to be reworked. I know we will only scratch the surface in the TDE day, but at least it is a start in the right direction. Though this is a mountain of work, we know that it is necessary, and we must have it in place for the 2010-2011 school year. It won't be easy so wish us luck on the way.

The term assessment is defined in the Assessment Standards as “the process” of gathering evidence about a student’s knowledge of, ability to use, and disposition toward mathematics and of making inferences from that evidence for a variety of purposes.” (NCTM, 1995, p. 3)

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