Diagnostic Assessments

Pre Unit Diagnostic Assessments

At the start of each unit is a pre-unit diagnostic assessment. These assessments vary in length. Most of the problems in the pre-unit diagnostic assessment address prerequisite concepts and skills for the unit. Teachers can use these problems to identify students with particular below-grade needs, or topics to carefully address during the unit. The pre-unit diagnostic assessment also may include problems that assess what students already know of the upcoming unit's key ideas, which teachers can use to pace or tune instruction. In rare cases, this may signal the opportunity to move more quickly through a topic to optimize instructional time.

What if a large number of students can't do the same pre-unit assessment problem? Teachers are encouraged to address below-grade skills while continuing to work through the on-grade tasks and concepts of each unit, instead of abandoning the current work in favor of material that only addresses below-grade skills. Look for opportunities within the upcoming unit where the target skill could be addressed in context. For example, an upcoming activity might require solving an equation in one variable. Some strategies might include:

  • ask a student who can do the skill to present their method
  • add additional questions to the warm-up with the purpose of revisiting the skill
  • add to the activity launch a few related equations to solve, before students need to solve an equation while working on the activity
  • pause the class while working on the activity to focus on the portion that requires solving an equation

Then, attend carefully to students as they work through the activity. If difficulty persists, add more opportunities to practice the skill, by adapting tasks or practice problems.

What if all students do really well on the pre-unit diagnostic assessment? That means they are ready for the work ahead, and special attention doesn't likely need to be paid to below-grade skills.