Fitting Everything in Is a Challenge!

A couple days ago I was asked a pretty big question about implementing the Assessments with Learning Goals and Scales in the classroom. I wanted to give it ample space because a few sentences just isn’t going to cover it!

User 5th_is_Fab has written the following comment regarding 
4th Grade Common Core Math Assessment with Learning Goals & Scales!“:

This is AMAZING and the amount of time that went into creating this is also AMAZING. However, in a real classroom where I only have x amount of time to teach all standards, I am racking my brain trying to figure out how to use this in the full way it was intended. We do not just teach one standard at a time so to group standards as a complete test would take the students a very long time to complete and a very long time for me to grade. (I only teach math… so I have 90 students.) I was thinking about starting them early and educating the parents on the importance of these assessments. That way I can do this as somewhat of a flipped model and have the students complete at home so not a ton of class time is disturbed.

I couldn’t find your name, but you have an impressive profile; Teacher of the Year twice in your county? You obviously know what you’re doing, so I’ll assume you have a very well-structured classroom. I can definitely relate to limited time. I also worked as a resource teacher for a multi-age class so differentiation was a necessity.  Covering 3 grade levels of content was a constant problem to solve. 

First, I would say that the tests can be time consuming, but since they take the same test twice, you are actually killing two birds with one stone. The kids get some of the test done the first time through and you get some valuable feedback about who is in the most need of remediation or enrichment. I found in my classes that there were actually lessons I could skip altogether or review really quickly because I had seen their pretest results. I never had 90 students, so that is a pretty big hurdle to get over, especially when you’d be grading them twice. Hmmm…  


If your parent population is really engaged you could try to educate the parents on understanding the Portfolio Pages and the Assessment levels and have them do the pretest portion at home. My concern would be that it could get really tricky if a student comes back with all 4 levels complete and correct and you didn’t actually see them do any of it. Maybe have some kind of limit on it, like they can only complete levels 1 and 2, then be given the rest as a post-test. You could observe in class which students are really catching on and compare that with their results. 

If you can get a few parent volunteers that you trust completely, you could ask for help grading the pretests.

The pretest score should not affect their grade in class, it is only a starting point; so whether or not you actually correct every problem may not make a huge difference. Their starting place would then be an estimate that they are making and recording on their Portfolio forms. You have to decide based on your students age, maturity, and circumstances if this will still serve the purpose of helping them become aware of their progress and see their own growth. This is the most important thing and the purpose of using scales!

You could start out by asking the students to give themselves an informal pretest score without grading it. So, they get the test page for the first time and are given a time limit in class such as 10-20 minutes to complete as much as they can. Without grading it, they see how far they got and try to answer honestly, “Can I do the problems in this section?” If they feel confident and you can see by browsing their paper for 10 seconds that they got that far, then they can color in a pretest level on their Portfolio forms. Then when you actually give the post-test you are only grading it once. 

I stopped grading my daily practice work when I realized that my students had no safe place to make mistakes. I would grade projects and larger in-class assignments, but had my students check their own daily practice work in small rotating groups from the teacher manual. Meanwhile I was around helping other kids. I had smaller classes so maybe it was easier for me to keep an eye on them. They also had each other and the group kept them pretty honest. You could have them take the pretests and them come together in small groups with an answer key that only covers sections 1 and 2, so they can’t cheat on the grade level content. Then they would also get immediate feedback on their starting point for that standard.

You could also have them do things like writing reflections at home after the post test. Then parents could see how their child is doing and have their own conversation with them. For 4th graders, writing reflections may be difficult and very time consuming so I would definitely save that for homework. 

I definitely clumped the pre-test and post-test standards into small groups when I was teaching them. Some of them are quick and easy to get through. I understand that most resources aren’t designed to match the standards, so there’s always an overlap in content. That’s no problem because you want your students to learn the content for good, not for a week or two before you move onto something else. I would usually give 1-3 assessments at a time, teach my unit, etc., and then spread out the post-tests so they were a week or two apart from each other. It can feel like a lot to keep track of, but since my district aligned scales to our grading system, I wasn’t grading any other assessment – rarely any class practice, a few quizzes, and homework grades were mostly completion points because our district policy did not support heavy grading of homework assignments. You may have to reprioritize what you’re grading and how much grading you need to do to have grades that really represent your student’s learning. Ideally, their scores in the Marzano scales become their grade because that is what really shows what they know! Check your district’s policies and see what you’re comfortable with. 

I spent about a year and a half writing the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade Assessments for my multi-age math class. I spent another half a year at least trying to implement them routinely. It is a work in progress so I would encourage you to be patient with yourself. You’re taking on the work to do something that could enrich your students, and that is admirable!  Keep trying to prioritize your class time by asking what activities will help your kids take ownership of their learning and make the most progress? You can trust your professional judgment and make modifications as needed. As long as you see your students progressing, you don’t have to pressure yourself to do every assessment, lesson, or “good idea” that comes along. Marzano’s research indicates that using learning goals and scales can make a huge difference in student growth because they help kids to become aware of their own learning and feel like they have some control over it. Otherwise you really are the one doing all the work for them. It’s a lot of work when you first start using scales; writing them, implementing them, and tracking them, but it can also save you some wasted time teaching lessons you don’t need or explaining to parents what their child is doing all year! Once it’s a routine, it gets a little easier. 

Dear “5th is Fab” I hope you found some helpful ideas to try. Please keep in touch and let me know how it’s going for you! I really commend you for trying to make this work smoothly in your situation.


Melanie LiCausi 🙂


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