About the USNS Project

about the usns

Forefront Education, founded in 2009, provides an assessment data and standards-based reporting and grading solution called Forefront®. We support over 500 schools in 35 states and 6 countries to help collect, analyze, and report student learning data for over 110,000 students.

Since 2020, Forefront Education has hosted the K-6 Universal Screeners for Number Sense (USNS) project. Introduced in 2008 as the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) Elementary Math Screeners, Forefront Education led updates to the assessment tool in 2020. Teacher-created and teacher-tested, these assessments help inform classroom instruction and identify struggling students across key number sense concepts and skills. You can download your free copy of these assessments here.

Purposes of the USNS Assessments

The USNS assessments consist of interview and written components. They can be given three times a year in the fall, winter, and spring. As of May 2023, over 9,000 schools in the US and internationally use these assessment tools. The assessments serve a variety of purposes:

  • Whole group/small group instruction
  • Pre-teaching
  • Identifying students for interventions or diagnostic assessment
  • Understanding instructional strengths and areas for growth
  • Resource allocation
  • Next steps and family communication

In a March 2023 survey of teachers using the USNS assessments, 100% of survey respondents cited that the assessments helped both “identify students in need of support” and “target instruction”. A majority of respondents also shared that the assessments supported collaborative work and family communication.

Additionally, 81% of respondents shared that the USNS assessments, as compared to other assessment systems in place, are more helpful for informing instruction. Other assessment systems for this comparison included NWEA MAP, STAR Math, AimsWeb, i-Ready, and Fastbridge.

Who Should Conduct USNS Assessments?

These assessments are intended to be conducted by classroom teachers, with supports such as substitutes, assessment days, collaborative groupings, or paraeducators. If it is not possible to offer these supports or these assessments are not conducted as a universal screener, classroom teachers can still conduct these assessments with a smaller number of students. They may conduct these with new students or those that are “in the middle” in terms of performance.

Interventionists may prefer to conduct the assessments with struggling students or students pre-identified with another assessment tool. They will be working with these students in interventions, so this is an opportune time for them to get to understand student needs.

Impact of the USNS Assessments

Not all Forefront® clients use the USNS assessments. Using a sample of over 25,000 data points, we compared assessment results from students with USNS results to students without USNS results. Through this analysis, we found impressive evidence of impact.

We looked at student growth across instructional units in the highly-rated Bridges® in Mathematics program. Students in districts using the USNS assessments consistently showed a greater rate of growth. Growth ranged from 1% to 12% across each unit of instruction as compared to peer districts. These results were consistent unit-by-unit and across grades 2-5.

We hypothesize that this phenomenal growth is due to the actionable information that the USNS provide. This information helps teachers focus universal and small group instruction on high-leverage topics.

Leverage USNS Results

If conducting the USNS as a universal screener or a sizable population of Tier 2/3 students, you will need a plan in place to collect and interpret your data. The lead author of the USNS project is also the founder of Forefront Education. Our software company helps school leverage assessment data to improve student success. In addition to tools to help drive powerful insights into student learning, we are excited to offer the USNS Next Steps and USNS Family Letters exclusively to clients using Forefront and the USNS.

Reach out to us today to explore how we could help strengthen your USNS implementation.

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Our team and tools help schools implement standards-based grading, streamline assessment systems, and use meaningful data to drive decision-making.

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Join over 9,000 schools using the Universal Screeners for Number Sense (USNS) assessments and download your free copy of the USNS assessments today.

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