Saturday, August 12, 2017

Math Benchmarks: What are they and how do I use them?

I absolutely love using a benchmark assessment throughout the school year. I love being able to show growth, identify troublesome areas, and get to know my students' math abilities right away. Now, I know that giving assessments is the last thing that we want to do in our classrooms, but assessments are essential for quality, targetted instruction. So, although I don't love to test my kids to death, I do make time for a benchmark assessment.

What is a benchmark assessment?

A benchmark assessment is an assessment that is given multiple times during the school year to all students in order to measure proficiency. These assessments give immediate feedback to teachers and allow them to determine what standards have been mastered and what additional instruction should be provided. 

How do I use them?

I give my math benchmark assessment three times throughout the school year. With each assessment, I have a very specific purpose for the data. 

Beginning of the Year Assessment

I usually assess my students' math skills during the first week or two of school. I ask them to complete this assessment and warn them that they may not be familiar with all of the questions. They will just need to do their best and attempt to answer as many questions as possible. I never take a grade on this type of assignment. It is simply to provide data for me. From there, I begin to make note of students who are able to complete many of the skills, because they are going to require more challenging work as the school year progresses. I use this data to begin making math groups as I prepare for differentiation. I also use this information to help identify students who fall into the bottom 25% of my class. In my school, they will be able to receive intervention through our RTI assistant. 

Middle of the Year Assessment

Once again, I use the same assessment to see where students stand. Typically, by the middle of the school year, I have addressed a large chunk of the skills that are covered on the benchmark assessment. By this point of the school year, I am often already thinking about how I'll review for standardized testing. This assessment provides extremely valuable information to help me address specific skills. For example, when given ONE problem that requires a student to divide decimals, can they do it? If not, we need to begin targetted practice to ensure that they are able to master the standard. For some, they may have just made a silly mistake. However, on my standardized tests, they often have one or two questions to demonstrate that they can do a particular skill. I need to help them to be able to avoid these mistakes and test confidently. 

End of the Year Assessment

I typically give this assessment again at the end of the school year to track growth from the beginning to the end of the school year. I share this information with both the parents and the teachers in the next grade level. Many of my students come into the school year earning less than 10% on this assessment and leave with a score of 80% or higher.

If you are looking to help measure your students' progress by using a math benchmark, I have assessments for 4th and 5th grades! 

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