As most of you know, in the past we have started our math year by giving students an end-of-year test to see if they should advance a grade level in math. Every year, we have anywhere from 0 to 3 students per grade level who move up. By the time a cohort, or grade level, of students made it to 5th grade, we would have anywhere from 4 to 8 students taking math at an advanced grade level. This means that by the time that cohort reaches 5th grade, we would have 67 to 71 kids who were not advanced in math.
When we gave students an end-of-year test, we were testing them on material they had not been taught. For the majority of students, this tells us more of what they don’t know than what they do know. We realized that the test, which takes an entire math period, gives us information that we can also get by looking at last year’s math data. When we talked about it as a staff, it didn’t seem like the best use of time for the majority of our students. If you are a student who struggles with math or is even an average math student, it can kill your self-confidence.
We do know that some students would be better served in a higher math grade. So this year, looking at last year’s math data and taking student recommendations, we selected students to take the end-of-year math test and see if they should be advanced a grade level.
We also started teaching math earlier this year than we have in the past. Before the end of the year last year, we designated which math class each student would be in this year. This allowed us to start math on the third day of the school year, as opposed to the sixth or even eleventh day, as has happened in the past. We know that it is important for students to be able to learn routines right away, and we are excited about this shift.
Lastly, we know that there are a lot of students who are great at math who are not ready to advance a grade. There has been a shift in the curriculum that will provide top students with more challenges. We are also in the process of purchasing additional resources to challenge our top students.