Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Balanced Assessment

We are back again today to discuss chapter 5: Balanced Assessment.  This chapter is amazing!  It is by far my favorite chapter.  There is so much information packed into this one chapter, that I know I will be referring back to it often.  I have marked it with so many stars, underlines, question marks, etc.  that it will be the one place I have to do quite a bit of self-reflection on to get myself where I need to be.  
The whole idea of balanced assessment is constantly looking at the students in multiple ways.  It is not limited to the end of chapter / unit assessments.  There should be surveys, pre-assessments, interviews, anecdotal notes, conferences, observations, self-reflections, quizzes / tests, etc.  And it is not enough to just have the assessments, we need to do something with them.  We need to use the information to know where our students are, where they need to be grouped, what do we need to do to get them where they need to be?

Throughout the chapter, the author connected assessment to the five elements of mathematical proficiency:

  • conceptual understanding
  • procedural fluency
  • strategic competence
  • adaptive reasoning
  • mathematical disposition
Making that connection really opened the flood gates for me.  It really justified the reasons for all of the assessment, and gave them purpose.  I know I have heard teachers in my school talk about how we test students too much.  In some ways we do.  Much of the assessments that the students undergo are often state or district driven, and not often valued, so they go unused.  The assessments discussed in this chapter allow us as teachers to gain so much information, but allows us to go on with instruction and student learning.  Not only are we as teachers able to use it, but the students can as well.  I know one of my goals this year is to better use the mandated assessments we have to give, and pull the positive out of them.  

An important aspect that I got from this chapter is the fact that the ongoing / balanced assessment is crucial not only for obtaining information about the students themselves, but on how effective the groups' work.  We use the assessments to place students into effective groups and enable us to move them fluidly where they need to be, but to do this we should have a plan in place that is a continuum of instruction for the unit.  I have always had this "plan" in my mind in the past when doing the whole group instruction I have done.  This is how I was able to differentiate for those upper and lower students.  But the importance of having that plan down on paper and maybe having multiple groups at a similar level just really hit home with something I will change this year as I move into guided math.    

OK, how many of you have given those end of chapter / unit tests and then just moved on?  I know I have been guilty at times.  I do try to go through a mental error analysis as I grade them, but I don't tend to do much with my students.  I might mention an overall with the class, but that has been the gist of it.  We have done goal setting, but even when doing that I really did not delve into the assessment with the students like I should have.  It was not because I  did not know that I should have, I was always just pushed for time.  What a big red flag for me!!!!!!  Fix this!!  

I will end my thoughts on the chapter with the teacher check-in that Dr. Nicki Newton provided.  This is one of those pages that has a big flag sticking off it.
  1. Have I set up scaffolded lessons for this unit?
  2. Have I set up tiered center activities?
  3. Have I given formative assessments this week?
  4. Do I know where all my students are in the learning process?
  5. What is the evidence of where my students are?
  6. Wh os struggling and what am I doing to help them?
  7. Thoughts about this unit....
How is that for self-reflecting?  I thought is was quite amazing!!!!

  When I was in special education, I did a lot of different types of assessments with my students.  I examined the tests, quizzes, assignments, and other work given to me from my collaborative teacher. I talked to and interviewed the teacher and the student.  I took lots and lots of anecdotal notes.  I reviewed benchmarks. And on and on and on.  The assessment never ended.

Now to my current 3rd grade placement.  Shame on me!!  I stopped doing many of these - at least on paper.  And - I don't have a good reason for not continuing them.  I have been doing some pre-assessments for chapters, but not constantly.  I am always making observations, but not putting enough on paper to document.  As Dr. Nicki mentioned in the chapter, we tend to do what we should in reading instruction, but not necessarily for math.  I am guilty of this.  And the sad thing about it,  I think to do it in math would be easier.

This chapter really hit me in the face - and I needed it.  I need to get back to what I know and apply it to my current setting.  I know the biggest thing I will carry from this chapter is to do more self-reflection, because when I do, I tend to move in the right direction.

I am really curious to read the other posts this week.  I'll probably even be taking notes.  I think assessment is really where my heart is going to be with this change from whole group to guided math workshop.  Make sure you stop by and visit the other bloggers who are participating.  And, be sure to come back and visit again on Sunday for chapter 6.


  1. Great post! Those questions for self-reflection are so important! I think I need to make them a big page in my lesson plan book so that I refer to them each time I am planning a guided math lesson. Assessments and recording observations on paper are two goals for me as well.
    The Traveling Teacher

    1. Yes - wonderful idea. I think it very important to include that in our lesson plans.