I taught 5th grade for many years before stepping into the coaching role. Every year, I had kiddos come to me who could not subtract with regrouping, let alone multiply or divide! And I’m not talking 1 or 2 students, I’m talking many. So along with teaching my grade-level skills, I had to spend significant time remediating skills from previous grade levels. Here’s my theory about why that happens. We typically teach our computation units early in the year. In many districts, grades 3-5 are finished with their computation units by winter break. Some kiddos get it, and some don’t. But we move on in the curriculum and don’t remediate what they didn’t get. That happens every year, so it’s a snowball effect that becomes a full-blown avalanche by 5th grade. And it’s not because teachers don’t have the best intentions. They most certainly do! But they also have a million and one things on their plates.
One way to proactively address these gaps is to implement a system of assessing computational fluency utilizing brief, pure computation problems (not word problems) to assess grade-level skills. The assessments are given at the beginning-of-the-year (BOY), middle-of-the-year (MOY), and end-of-year (EOY). The BOY test is just the previous grade’s EOY test. Does that make sense? So the 3rd graders take the 2nd-grade EOY test at the beginning of 3rd grade to give the 3rd-grade teachers an idea of the students’ skills.
Our Math Vertical Team compiled data from the BOY test and used it to inform instruction. It was surprising how low the scores were at every grade level!! We decided that the teachers would remediate and re-administer the BOY Portrait again before the October vertical team meeting. That became our pattern for the year. In January, they administered the EOY test, because they had finished teaching their computation units in December. They reported their numbers in January, again in March, and just last week. The numbers went up and UP! It was the accountability piece that had been missing before.
Click here for the files containing the assessments. Keep in mind that these are aligned to the Texas TEKS, so the skills might be slightly different for common core. I uploaded them in editable form, so you can modify them to make them work for you. Kindergarten and 1st grade look a little different. We worked as a vertical team to determine what their assessment would look like. We decided that the main skill the kiddos need coming out of Kinder and 1st was knowing the combinations for ten, so that is their assessment. They use their tracking sheet all year long to determine each child’s “number”, meaning what is the largest number each student knows all the combinations for.
With each successive year, teachers save tons of instructional time previously needed for remediation. And maybe the best result? Students feel increasingly more successful! I hope this is helpful to you!