Why I'm Switching to Leveled Math Tests

Do you differentiate, level, or tier your math tests? Today I'm sharing 7 reasons why I made the switch to using leveled, differentiated math tests in my classroom. This post is part of a 3 part series on math assessments that are differentiated and leveled. My first post focused on what a differentiated, leveled math test is and the last post discusses the variety of ways I’m using leveled math tests, not only for testing, but also for differentiated instruction and practice.

Read on to discover why differentiated math tests that you can spiral throughout your math unit are the perfect addition to a differentiated math classroom!

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During my teaching career, I've taught 7 years of 5th grade, looped from 4th grade to 5th grade twice, and am currently in my second year of teaching 4th grade at a new school. This year, I partnered up with the 5th grade teacher and am allowed the pleasure of teaching 5th grade math to the 4th graders I had last year.

After 4 years of teaching 5th grade, switching grade levels to loop was an invaluable form of professional development in regards to my math instruction and understanding of differentiation in math. I was able to experience first-hand what my 5th graders were expected to learn in the previous grade and how everything connected as building blocks to the next grade level. As a 4th grade teacher with lots of 5th grade experience, I am able to prepare my students for what they will need to be able to do in math in the future.

As my experiences with two grade-levels’ content grew, I began to see a staircase from one grade level to the next. While I can now analyze the standards and figure out the steps on those staircases, I know that my initial understanding of the connections between standards grew from teaching multiple grade levels.

Differentiated math tests were a big Ah-HA that came from this experience. With differentiated pre-tests and post-assessments, I could now use the staircase and connections I saw between the standards in a tangible way—to give students entry points into grade-level content and provide opportunities beyond the standards for students who are ready to take the standards further.

I became fully committed and passionate about utilizing leveled, differentiated math tests and today I want to share with you the biggest reasons for my commitment to this style of assessment!

7 Reasons why I fully committed to using differentiated, leveled math tests this year:

1) Math Pre-Tests only based on what I had to teach for my grade level felt like a waste of time. 

 Typical math pre-tests that I've used in the past to assess my students before teaching a unit just weren't cutting it. How could I expect students to pre-assess on math concepts that were pretty new to them? {This happens a lot in the shift from 3rd grade to 4th grade standards.} Although I understood the need for pre-assessments from an understanding my students and a gathering data standpoint, I wasn't convinced that spending a math class pre-assessing my students this way for every new unit was a good use of our time.

2) Leveled, Differentiated Math Tests respect students' abilities and learning needs.

I am so glad that the idea for leveled, differentiated math tests came to me because now I believe that leveled pre-tests in math are so valuable. I show respect for my students' understanding and learning by providing the "building blocks" assessment as an entry point for students who may have barely mastered the 3rd grade standards and I provide levels of challenge for my higher students. Allowing students to see what they will be learning in an upcoming unit and what exactly they are expected to master really allows me to communicate math goals to my students in a concrete and age-appropriate way.

3) Teachers need to have a good sense of the expectations of students' previous grade level AND need to look forward into what students will be expected to learn in future grade levels.

My leveled, differentiated math tests can serve as a concrete guide for understanding what students should already be able to do, the expectations for their mastery at the current grade-level, and what a more rigorous interpretation of the standard might look like.

When Common Core Standards entered North Carolina, it became so important for me to spend more time looking back at what students should have learned in the previous grade and looking forward to see what would be expected of them next year. This helped me create a laser-like focus on my own grade-level's standards while developing a more cohesive understanding of the standards overall. During our transition year, it allowed me to step down to the previous grade's standards to see what students missed from the Common Core and how I could fill in the gaps to help them achieve understanding of my grade-level's standards.

4) Leveled Math Tests make differentiation easier. 

Leveled, differentiated math tests provide me with evidence and data that allows me to plan strategically for whole group instruction, small group instruction, and stations or independent work time that better meets my students’ needs because my plans are based directly on where individual students are on the continuum of understanding a concept. With three similar test versions and a summative assessment option, I'm also able to document students’ growth over time.

5) Leveled, Differentiated Math Tests provide stake-holders with a greater understanding of where students are in relation to grade-level expectations. 

In my leveled, differentiated math test resources, I've provided teachers with the standards trace across the grade levels and a description of how the leveled assessments build on one another. The assessments themselves can quickly provide parents, teachers, administrators, and support personnel/interventionists with a greater understanding of what is expected of students at your grade level, how to back up to pre-requisite knowledge for students who need more support, and can show you how to increase the rigor for students who are already meeting grade-level standards.

6) Leveled, Differentiated Math Tests make standards-based grading much easier!

I no longer have to "feel" my way through whether or not a student has a level 2, 3, or 4 understanding of the standards. The "building blocks," "goals," and "gold" sections of the math assessment clearly shows the level of accomplishment a student is independently capable of achieving.

7) Leveled, Differentiated Math Tests allow me to infuse my math class with a growth mindset approach to learning.

In the pre-assessment and practice phase, students can see what they are capable of and clear direction for what they need to learn in order to master grade-level "goals." Students already meeting grade-level goals can see opportunities for challenging their learning with the "stretching-beyond" assessment questions.

I am able to encourage students who are not yet meeting grade level expectations while challenging students whose skill level is beyond grade level—all within one assessment!

Ready to jump right in with 4th grade or 5th grade leveled, differentiated math assessments? My Common Core Aligned leveled math assessments were created to provide teachers with a tool for assessing the depth of students’ proficiency within the standards and to help teachers more accurately and more easily communicate where a child is in relation to the expectations of their grade level’s standards.

4th Grade Math Assessments/Differentiated Math Practice

4th Grade Differentiated Math Assessments