NC Department of Public Instruction

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why are the tasks called Formative Instructional and Assessment Tasks?

When lessons and assessment plans are made together, classroom assessment becomes indistinguishable from assessment. When one looks closer, the subtle differences between the two can be found: The difference between an assessment task and an instructional task depends on the teacher’s role in posing questions, listening to students’ responses, and making judgments about students’ understandings. (Mathematics Assessment Sampler: PreK-2, 2006, NCTM) Therefore, while the intent of the tasks provided are to serve as a tool to gain insight into students’ mathematical knowledge, each task has the potential to be used as an instructional task- it simply depends on the teacher's purpose for using a particular task.

Will there be Benchmark Assessments? Summative Assessment?

NCDPI will provide a K-2 Mid-Year Benchmark Assessment and an End-of-Year Summative Assessment to District Leaders. At this time, we anticipate releasing the mid-year benchmark assessment to District leaders in the Fall and the K-2 Summative Assessment in early 2013. As in previous years, districts have the option to use DPI assessments as presented, modify them, or adopt other assessments. That said, many districts modified the former NCDPI quarterly assessments to align with their district pacing guide. District Leaders will continue to have that same option- and are encouraged to do so. If there are items in the mid-year benchmark assessment that do not align with your pacing guide, then the District Leaders may remove them. If there are items that need to be assessed that are not included, then District Leaders may consider adding other items, such as those from this formative assessment site.

Are there any paper-pencil tasks?

The Formative Instructional and Assessment Tasks are comprised of Interviews and Written Response Tasks. The Written Response Tasks ask students to show the mathematics used and explain their reasoning. Student Forms and/or Blackline Masters are provided for students to use to record their written responses. Since both correct answers and appropriate processes are valued in mathematics, teachers find that observing students and talking with them are ways to provide students with opportunities to demonstrate what they know and can apply in new situations. Thus, the teacher is encouraged to ask the student clarifying questions during the assessment or after the assessment to gain a more accurate picture of what the student knows and understands. Insight into children’s thinking helps teachers build on what students understand, not just what they can do by memorizing processes.

Can you really change the tasks? How or why would I do that?

It is possible to make changes if desired, such as changing the names of the students, the setting for the problem, and the layout of the task (more space, less lines, etc.). It is also possible to change the numbers in the task. If you choose to do this, be careful to note which numbers were used in the task. They were selected for a very particular reason. Perhaps you can keep the same purpose, and shift the numbers so that it still assesses the same concept. For example, if it is a question asking a student to count by 10s across a decade (90, 100, 110) then a way to change the task would be to select a different decade (50, 60, 70 or 190, 200, 210).

How should I prepare my students for the assessment tasks?

Because the activities in the mathematics assessment tasks should be similar to the lessons that students experience throughout the year, no special preparations for students is necessary. Students should have a relaxed atmosphere in which to do the tasks. The only difference is that the teacher cannot coach, scaffold, or instruct the students during this time.

I want to be as neutral as possible when assessing my students. So, what do I say if a student asks me if s/he is right or wrong?

Simply answer with a neutral, “That’s fine” or “You’re thinking hard.” regardless of whether the answer is right or wrong (Van de walle & Lovin, 2006). When you comment on their thinking, hard work, willingness to try during instruction and assessment, students begin to build self-confidence about their abilities- rather than seeking approval for a correct response.

What if I already have evidence (from other assessments and/or class work) that a student is proficient with a particular standard? Do I still need to assess that student with a task from this assessment bank?

If a student demonstrates proficiency on an assessment task, and there is continued evidence within the classroom environment that demonstrates continued proficiency, then there is not a need to reassess. You have the documentation-and information- you need.

Sometimes the task asks the student to predict, but I don’t see anywhere in the Continuum of Understanding where that is addressed. What do I do?

Sometimes items begin by asking student to predict. This is to engage the student and give the teacher an idea of their number sense. Making note of it in the records is a good way to capture the information to compare over time.

What are effective ways to interview a student?

· Be accepting and neutral as you listen to the student.
· Avoid cuing or leading the child
· Wait silently
· Do not interrupt
· Use imperatives rather than questions.
· Avoid confirming a request for validation

See Van de walle & Lovin, 2006, p. 34 for more details

Are there special preparations I should do when assessing students?

The tasks are designed to mirror what occurs daily during instruction. Therefore, students should not feel pressure to perform differently form their regular class performance. As with both, students learn that you are learning about how they think and what they know so that you can teach them to the best of your ability.

Will there be more Assessment Tasks added?

The tasks presented will continually be evolving as we move forward with implementing the new Common Core State Standards. As you use these tasks with your students, add to and adapt the materials in order to make them useful for your particular situation. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction appreciates any suggestions and feedback, which will help improve upon this resource. Please send all correspondence to Denise Schulz (