Let’s face it–data is everywhere. In a school setting, the data that drives our instruction comes from assessments, which we usually classify as either formative or summative. Typically, we define formative assessment as assessment for learning. It is more informal and usually comes in the form of quick, frequent assessments. Think Tickets In, questioning, journal reflections, and teacher observations or discussions from small group instruction. Formative assessment is taking the pulse of student understanding so we can plan our next moves. Summative assessment, on the other hand, is assessment of learning. This type of assessment comes at the end of instruction and assesses how well the students have mastered the objectives. Summative assessments can be, among other things, unit tests, district tests, or state tests. But are summative assessments the end of the road? Of course not! The data that is produced from summative assessments serves as the basis for our remediation efforts. You give a unit test, you analyze the data and remediate as needed. But we have to use the data in the right way if our math remediation is to be effective. What does that mean?
Remediate the skill, not the grade
We have to resist the temptation to remediate based solely on the grade. Of course a child that makes a 60 needs remediation, but where do you start? Our test title might say Place Value Test, but in reality it probably covers several place value concepts and standards. The overall grade of 60 tells you little about the student’s actual needs. That student might have gotten every question about expanded notation correct, while missing all the questions about comparing and reading decimals. Likewise, a student who scored an 80 might not seem to need remediation. But what if he missed all three questions on expanded notation? If we remediate solely on the overall grade, that student would be moved right along without understanding an important concept. That’s how gaps begin.
Remediate the skill, not the question
If you think this sounds a bit like the last section, you’d be correct. Just because students miss the same question, that doesn’t mean they have the same remediation needs. Look, for example, at this question:
Forming math remediation groups
Once you have carefully analyzed your data, you plan remediation groups accordingly:
- The students who missed the question because of decimal placement most likely don’t have a solid foundation in place value. Go back to the base-10 blocks and pictorial support to help students better understand place value in general and, more specifically, multiplication of decimals.
- The students who don’t have a successful strategy for multiplication form a group learning strategies for multiplying, using concrete or pictorial support as needed. Strategies could include the area model or partial products leading to the standard algorithm.
- Have a conversation with the student who missed the problem due to a fact error. It’s important that students understand their mathematical strengths and weaknesses. Explain to the student that he did all the hard math correctly, but still missed the problem due to a fact error. Provide the student opportunities to practice his basic facts.
- The students who added clearly did not comprehend the problem. These students need strategies for understanding what the four operations look like in word problems. Work with these students to analyze problems and determine the operation. Learning to draw models to help them visualize the problem will be an important part of their instruction. Their emphasis is not solving the problems, just analyzing them to determine the operation.
Bottom line, our data is only useful if we use it correctly, and that means digging down to the skill level.
I hope you’ll add your comments about remediation. What works for you?