New math assessment tool helps SCSD improve K-2 instruction

— Many elementary school-age children can count to 100, but do they truly understand and recognize the numbers, what they mean and how they relate to each other? This is an important question for school educators and administrators, and one that Skaneateles is directly addressing this year with a new math assessment tool for grades K through 6.

The computer-based tool, AIMSweb, is defined on its website, aimsweb.com, as “a complete Web-based solution for universal screening, progress monitoring, and data management for Grades K-12” that “provides guidance to administrators and teachers based on accurate, continuous and direct student assessment.”

Waterman teachers and administrators are using it especially for mathematics to assess students in four key areas in kindergarten and first grade. The Web-based system then ranks student scores against national, state and local averages and suggests general issues to address in the math curriculum for each student.

“I look at it as a thermometer for a student — it gives a good idea of where a student is at,” said Waterman Elementary School Principal Gary Gerst, who was the prime mover in getting the AIMSweb tool to Skaneateles. “You don’t teach to this; it’s an assessment that gives us valuable information about where a student is in mathematics. This gives a deeper understanding of math at an earlier age and allows us to use national comparison standards to help us get an understanding of the kids who are at-risk, the kids who are at level and above level.”

The mathematical component of AIMSweb now in use at Waterman assesses students in four main areas: oral computing, number identification, quantitative discrimination and identifying numbers in a series.

The elementary math specialists for Waterman, Mary Baldwin and teacher Kim Ward, sit with each student one-on-one to administer the assessment. The test is done on paper, not on computer, and takes only about seven minutes per child — one minute for each of the four tests and time to give directions.

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