K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

February 2018

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Moving Away from Multiple Choice: Creating a Three-Dimensional Science Assessment

By Kirsten Pendleton

The new science standards are written as Performance Expectations (PE)-- what students should be able to do by the end of the year. How students go about getting there are known as the Three Dimensions: the Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI--the subject matter), the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP--how to go about studying the DCIs), and the Crosscutting Concepts (CCC-the big ideas across the sciences).


Traditionally the focus has been on assessing student knowledge of the DCIs. Focus needs to shift from memorization of facts to students using the information. The evidence statements for each PE (found at nextgenscience.org) gives teachers the information they need to teach and assess. For example, a fourth-grade PE asks students to apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another. In the SEPs students are asked to construct explanations and design solutions. The evidence statement gives direction on getting students to accomplish this, beginning with an initial problem to solve, such as how can we make a s’more using light energy, or how can we get a rubber-band powered vehicle to go four yards, no more, no less?


More information is provided on having students describe their solutions, evaluate them against provided constraints (such as size, shape, cost of materials) and having them modify their designs to improve them. The crosscutting concept of energy will come up again and again. Then the activity can be modified to create your summative assessment of student learning, asking students to use their evidence to analyze data or solve a similar problem.

Running Records as a Formative Assessment

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By Heather Lieberman

Every time you meet with your students in guided reading you have the opportunity to help them become active, independent readers. This is done through teaching students the various reading strategies they need to help them reach that target. Jan Richardson in the Next Steps in Guided Reading said, “The goal in guided reading is not for students to read with 100% accuracy, but it is to use strategies”. Determining the strategy needed for each student is the key to being successful in meeting that goal. Using running records is a perfect real-time way to get the information you need to give your instruction a laser sharp focus.


Running records are a formative assessment that allow you to document the reading behaviors your students exhibit. Not only do they tell a student's reading level, they also show what students are struggling with and what they are doing well with. Knowing exactly where your students are allows you to make precise and targeted instructional decisions.


Taking running records can seem overwhelming, but that can be eliminated by coming up with and implementing a good plan. You should take a running record on all students approximately every six weeks (sooner with students who are reading below grade level). Setting up a schedule will help to keep you on track. For more helpful guidance on taking and using running records click on the link below.


7 Tips to Make Running Records Useful & Manageable

Student Self-Assessments to Develop Independent Learners

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkFWbC91PXQ
Involve your Students with a Data Chat using iReady

Use this data chat with your students so they can identify their strengths, areas of growth, set a goal, and chart their progress. Here is a two-page printable resource.

Assessing Mathematical Reasoning Using a Number Talk

By Jennifer Marinello

In order to assess mathematical reasoning, we must first understand what it is, and then we can begin to provide daily opportunities for reasoning in our classrooms.


Mathematical reasoning is a student's ability to think deeply and make sense of the mathematical concepts they are learning. Students develop their capacity to reason when provided with consistent opportunities to engage with rich mathematical tasks, construct viable arguments, invent and use strategies, and critique each other's thinking. Students will not develop numerical reasoning if they are only memorizing procedures, or solving rote problems.


Number talks are structured opportunities in your classroom that encourage students to think flexibly about the operations and their properties as they solve problems mentally. Number talks take about 5-15 minutes and can be used as part of a 'warm up' activity, or as a stand-alone lesson in your classroom or guided math session. This time will allow you to assess your students' use of strategies, number sense, use of structure, and their ability to reason about number.


Explore some of these sample videos of Number Talks:


~What was the role of the teacher? student?

~What signals did students use during the Number Talk?

~What did you notice about students' ability to reason? What strategies did they use?

~How is the teacher able to assess students during a number talk?


Get started today with number talks in your classroom!

Assessment in the Social Studies Classroom

By Erick Shio

Assessment is a vital component in any learning environment. Evaluating student learning is often seen as an integral part of the classroom because students must be graded for report card purposes, but with so many different types of assessment utilized in education it’s important to keep in mind the overall purpose of assessment beyond the report card. The main purpose of assessment is to gather relevant data on student performance and/or progress. After gathering this data, teachers can use this information collected to reflect and plan for future instruction.


As we continue to evolve as an educational community, we must ask ourselves is the purpose of assessment to assign a grade or to measure how much of the content students have retained on a given day? In Social Studies, let’s focus not just on the content taught in each course, but also on the skills students should be learning that will apply to all aspects of their lives such as citing textual evidence to support arguments, analyzing primary and secondary sources, determining an author’s perspective, and developing well written arguments. When assessing our students let’s provide feedback that they can use to strengthen these transferable real life skills.


It is imperative that we continue to evolve our instructional practices so that we can teach our students of today and tomorrow to move beyond rote memorization and become independent critical thinkers. Sam Wineburg, author of Reading Like a Historian and founder of Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), identified specific Social Studies skills that all students should be developing on a regular basis. Let’s challenge ourselves to create lessons and assessments that incorporate these skills.


Social Studies Skills Students Should Practice

  • Sourcing
    Think about a document’s author and its creation.

  • Contextualizing
    Situate the document and its events in time and place

  • Close Reading
    Carefully consider what the document says and the language used to say it.

  • Using Background Knowledge
    Use historical information and knowledge to read and understand the document.

  • Reading the Silences
    Identify what has been left out or is missing from the document by asking questions of its account.

  • Corroborating
    Ask questions about important details across multiple sources to determine points of agreement and disagreement.


For some great formative assessment ideas for Social Studies click here.

Using Assessment Tools in Physical Education

By Alejandro Battle

In a class setting that is constantly in motion, it may seem difficult to find the time to perform assessments in Physical Education with attempting to maximize your lessons with movement. PE teachers need to check for student understanding and growth on a consistent basis throughout a student's K-12 Health and Physical Education experience. In order to constantly check for understanding and keep track of these skills, there are a multitude of assessments Health and PE teachers can adopt to check for student understanding.


Simple checklists: Teachers can create a checklist of skills and check off which skills are completed, in progress, or needing improvement.


Performance tasks: In this type of assessment, students will physically perform a specific skill that a teacher would like to assess. These can be used for both informal and formal assessments.


Portfolio tasks: In this assessment, teachers need to create a portfolio for each individual student. This type of assessment will track student growth over time. All student work will remain in the portfolio and is a great way to see student’s individual progress over time.


Rating scales/rubrics: Rubrics can be created for achieving certain skills, such as locomotor skills. Students are rated accordingly.


Written tests/ worksheets: Traditional pen/paper assessments can be created for skills learned at the end of units. Tests can be specific to different sports, skills, etc.


There is always a worry of losing time. The focus should be on how to assess effectively without losing physical activity time. Implementation is key and planning properly to match an assessment with your classroom routine will assist in making your assessment implementation a successful one.

Assessments in the Arts

By Danielle Tan

Assessment is an integral part of the artistic process that can increase teacher effectiveness and improve student achievement. Assessment activities facilitate teaching and learning by offering descriptive feedback to students and providing information that prompts teachers to make adjustments to future instructional activities. Effective arts teachers promote achievement by continually assessing their students and transforming their practices.


Assessments in the arts should address both process and product and measure knowledge of content and artistic performance. Assessments must be considerate of differences and inequities in resources and conditions related to achievement. Effective arts assessments will prompt critical and creative-thinking skills, perseverance, flexibility, self-discipline, self-esteem, and collaboration. Where possible, the assessment can encourage students to recognize the connections with other disciplines.


  • Summative assessments are carried out over several days or weeks and can include: skits, models, musical scores and performances, and art projects.

  • Formative assessments can include discussion, rehearsals, drafts, writing exercises, and self/peer critique.

  • These assessments should examine and report on developing abilities. A great way to assist students in recognizing improvement is to collect and periodically review work in a portfolio.


At the start of a lesson, teachers should produce rubrics which outline clear expectations for students to understand how they will be assessed. Rubrics are an essential part of assessment which students will refer to for guidance.


Throughout the lesson, students should receive descriptive feedback from their peers and teacher, and should have an opportunity to self-assess. Then, students should reflect on their feedback and decide how to respond to and revise their work.


More information on New Jersey Student Learning Standards and assessments for visual and performing arts can be found here.

Assessing English Language Learners

By Mayreni Fermin-Canon

Assessing English Language Learners (ELLs) or gathering information is an important piece of everyday instruction. The process by which we go about doing so can take many forms. In this article you will find tips on how to get started with assessment design to gather evidence of student learning while monitoring their progress.


I have a new ELL, where do I begin? As we know, there’s a time and place for everything. When a new ELL arrives in your class, conducting a simple informal assessment can prove to be extremely helpful. Start by collaborating with the ESL teacher and speaking with the student to learn about their formal education experiences, proficiency in the native language, other languages spoken at home, and their English Language Proficiency (ELP) level. Reviewing the student’s record in the main office can also help you gather additional information as you prepare to teach. Once you have these pieces, arrange or document them in a manner that helps you see the bigger picture. Their native language literacy or lack of formal education will be the big picture or baseline data to guide your instruction. Having information on a student’s native language literacy will help you deliver instruction that allows students to make connections to their primary language as they learn English. In the event a student has a gap in formal education of six months or more, individualized instruction will be the most appropriate path to take.


How do I design valid and reliable assessments for ELLs? When designing assessment for ELLs keep in mind language load, context, and cultural biases. As far as language load, ensure the directions are presented in a manner the student understands. If the wording or directions present an obstacle for the student to respond, then you will not be able to obtain the information you need. In terms of context, ensure the student can relate at some level to what is being asked. If they can’t make connections to their background or own experiences, then the test item will not make sense. Most importantly, avoid questions, pictures or items that might be culturally biased. If, for example, the test features a question or picture of a bicycle, students who have never owned or used a bike would be at a disadvantage because they wouldn’t be able to relate to this experience. Even if the student can read every word in the question, a bike might be foreign to them.


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Benchmark Assessments

By Kevin Bobetich

What is a benchmark assessment?


“Benchmark assessments are short tests administered throughout the school year that give teachers immediate feedback on how students are meeting academic standards. Regular use of benchmark assessments is seen by many as a tool to measure student growth and design curriculum to meet individual learning needs.”


In the Hamilton Public Schools, we utilize benchmark assessments to measure student performance in Kindergarten to 9th grade in English Language Arts, and Mathematics. We have been using the i-Ready benchmark assessments for about 2 years. Prior to utilizing i-Ready, we used Linkit’s benchmark assessments. Over time this information has helped our classroom teachers, principals, and administration gauge student performance relative to other students in the state, as well as students in our own district. We also analyze this information at an administrative level to make academic decisions.


Benchmark assessments are one tool all subject teachers should utilize to gauge a student’s academic level. Besides benchmarks, all teachers should create rigorous formative and summative assessments to provide immediate feedback on how students are meeting academic standards. Best practice is to grade the tests right away and put the scores into PowerSchool and/or return assessment home so parents can also be partners in their child’s education. At a building level, it is important to compare grade level performance both vertically and horizontally in order to adjust instruction.

Curriculum Connections

7 Technology Enhanced Item Types on Common Core Testing

1. Drag and Drop: This item type does exactly what the name implies. Students need to drag an item from one part of the screen to another.


  • Ways Drag and Drop was used in sample items: In ELA, the Drag and Drop functionality included tiles with statements from an accompanying text. Those tiles were then dragged to a designated area on screen to identify multiple details in a text, sequence events in a story or process steps in information texts, complete graphic organizers, identify supporting evidence, arrange a summary, and identify central ideas. In Math, the tiles contained numbers or equations and were dragged to categorize types of questions, arrange answers in numerical order, and match expressions with word forms

2. Multiple Select: This item type is most similar to a traditional standardized test format. It is a multiple choice question, but instead of just one correct answer, there are many, and students must choose all of them to get the question correct.


  • Ways Multiple Select was used in sample items: In ELA, Multiple Select functionality included choosing multiple themes or central ideas in a text, multiple synonyms or antonyms for a vocabulary word, and multiple supporting details. In Math, Multiple Select items included selecting multiple equivalent fractions, equivalent equations, and equivalent amounts of measurement.

3. Text Selection/Highlighting: This item type requires students to click on words, phrases, or entire sentences as a way to answer questions about specific parts of a text.


  • Ways Text Selection/Highlighting was used in sample items: In ELA, students were prompted to select claims that supported a central idea, or to choose sentences that provided context for a vocabulary word by clicking on the text provided. The selected text would either highlight or turn a different color. This item type was not used for math questions on sample tests or practice items.

4. Equation Builder: This item is like a mini word processor that includes specialized mathematical symbols, ranging from simple division signs to more complex trigonometric symbols, such as sin and cosine.


  • Ways Equation Builder was used in sample items: The Equation Editor was not used in released ELA items. This item type was used in Math to build and solve questions related to word problems and to justify answers to problems by showing both equations and typing written responses. Students were also asked to evaluate the mathematical processes and responses calculated by others and show their work to prove their answers.

5. Drop Down Menus: This item type includes a menu that expands when clicked on. From the expanded menu, students can see possible answer choices. They click on the word or number that completes the answer, based on context.


  • Ways Drop Down Menus were used in sample items: The Drop Down Menus were not used in released ELA items. This item type was used in math to build and solve equations, choose the correct label for answers, and build charts of equivalent values.

6. Constructed Response: This item is an embedded word processor. It has simple word processing functionality, like the ability to change text size and style and to cut, copy and paste.


  • Ways Constructed Responses were used in sample items: In ELA, the Constructed Response functionality was used as a way for students to answer questions that needed to include textual evidence. This item was also used for students to revise and rewrite given passages, add conclusions to stories, and write arguments opposing a given text. Math questions using this item asked students to explain numerical results, explain given solutions, and write down steps for problem solving. When this item was used in Math, no equations or numerical input was required.

7. Multiple Part Question: This item is not a new item type; rather it is a new way of organizing items. The Multiple Part Question asks related, tiered questions using a combination of other enhanced item types.


  • Ways Multiple Part Questions were used in sample items: In ELA, the Multiple Part Question included a passage for students to read and two to four different types of questions to answer. Each question part was related to the one before it; for example a question in Part A might asked students to identify the theme of the text and then Part B was a Multiple Select question asking students to choose each statement from the text that supported their answer in Part A. In math, a student had to solve an equation using Drop Down menus in Part A and then justify their answer to Part A in a Constructed Response in Part B.

Source: http://www.edudemic.com/7-tech-enhanced-items-on-common-core-tests/

Familiarize your students with these item types here:

  • ReadWriteThink: These student interactives cover topics from inquiry to summarization and include many of the technology enhanced item types on the PARCC and SBAC tests.

  • The Mathematics Common Core Toolbox: On this site you can choose your grade span and complete anywhere from 5 to 8 practice items modeled on the PARCC test. Items include most of the new technology enhanced functionality.

  • Edcite: This is a free site for teachers, which allows you to create your own technology-enhanced items. You also get access to items created by other teachers. Highlighting, graphing, and drag and drop are just a few of the functionalities available on the site.


  • NJ Science Released Items: Over the weekend the State of NJ released practice science tests for grades 5, 8, and 11. No log-in is needed; you simply enter as 'guest'. Samples with accommodations will be released over the next few weeks.
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NOTES FROM MR. SCOTTO

A few years ago I had the honor to hear Rick Wormeli speak to a group of K-12 educators. Rick is the author of Fair Isn't Always Equal. One section of his book (1st edition) talks about the importance of "good" assessment.


I'd like to share a few fast facts about how Wormeli defines good assessment. They are as follows:


  • Good assessment provides enough information to the teacher to inform instructional practice;
  • Good assessment does not happen on the same day, every week, because that's test day;
  • Good assessment often calls for the use of different tools and products;
  • Good assessment often uses tasks that reveal misunderstandings so teachers can see whether students have truly learned the material.


Excerpt Source: Wormeli 2006

Hamilton Township School District

Department of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Battle
Supervisor of K - 12 World Language
Health and Physical Education


Kevin Bobetich
Testing Evaluation Specialist and Data Systems


Mayreni Fermin-Cannon
Supervisor of ESL/Bilingual K - 12, Family Engagement, Title I Preschool, Title III, Title III-Immigrant


Heather Lieberman
Supervisor of K - 5 English / Language Arts Literacy
Library and Media Services K - 12, ALPS, BSI, Title I & II


Jennifer Marinello
Supervisor of K - 5 Mathematics & K - 5 Technology (STEM)
BSI, Title I & Title II


Kirsten Pendleton
Supervisor of K - 12, Science, and 6 - 12 Technology (STEM)


Anthony Scotto

Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Erick Shio
Supervisor of K - 12 Social Studies, Business,
Family and Consumer Science


Danielle Tan
Supervisor of K - 12 Visual and Performing Arts