All posts by Jennifer

10 Easy Ways to Include Formative Assessment In Your Classroom


MasteryConnect recently published a blog with some great ideas for using formative assessment in the classroom. As the blog suggests, assessing learning while its happening is an opportunity for teachers to gain a deeper understanding of student growth. Formative assessment can also play a key role in allowing teachers to assess the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and lessons. As MasteryConnect’s blog reminds us, the best part is that formative assessment doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. In fact, although they might not know it, most teachers have probably been using formative assessments for years!

“Formative assessment is gaining an increasingly brighter (and very worthy) spotlight in the K-12 community. As more and more schools and districts make the move to a growth mindset and mastery learning, formative assessment may be the most powerful tool to help teachers identify strategies to improve their own practice, while providing students with the personalized attention they need to succeed academically.”

“Like the name implies, formative assessment helps guide learning and instruction by providing immediate student feedback while learning happens. Unlike summative tests, which typically occur at the end of a chapter or unit, formative assessments are usually ungraded or don’t carry heavily weighted points.Rather, formative assessment is a quick check for understanding to help teachers answer important questions about student growth: What do my students know? What do they still need to learn? How should I adapt my instruction?” Article continued…

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Are You Using the Right Tests?

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James Popham’s recent commentary in EdWeek is a clear reminder for educators to give serious thought to the purpose behind the type assessments they are administering to students. Popham argues that our nation’s obsession with comparison-based, standardized testing offers teachers few, if any, instructional insights.

“America’s students are not being educated as well these days as they should be. A key reason for this calamity is that we currently use the wrong tests to make our most important educational decisions. The effectiveness of both teachers and schools is now evaluated largely using students’ scores on annually administered standardized tests, but most of these tests are simply unsuitable for this intended purpose.

When we use the wrong tests to evaluate instructional quality, many strong teachers are regarded as ineffective and directed by administrators to abandon teaching procedures that actually work well. Conversely, the wrong test scores often fail to identify truly weak teachers—those in serious need of instructional assistance who don’t receive help because they are thought to be teaching satisfactorily. In both these instances, it is the students who are shortchanged.”Article continued…

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What Should Assessments “Do”?

student test

All the recent talk of assessments can leave teachers reeling. In her recent article, The Most Important Question Every Assessment Should Answer, Terry Heick clearly reveals a path for teachers to use as they move from assessments of learning to assessments for learning.

The difference between assessment of learning and assessment for learning is a crucial one, in many ways indicative of an important shift in education.

Traditionally, tests have told teachers and parents how a student “does,” then offers a very accessible point of data (usually percentage correct and subsequent letter grade) that is reported to parents as a performance indicator. Class data can be gathered to imply instructional effectiveness, and the data from multiple classrooms can be combined to suggest the performance of an entire school, but a core message here is one of measurement and finality: this is how you did. This was the bar, and you either cleared it or you didn’t. Article Continued…

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Five Strategies for Effective Teaching


Most educators are eager to embrace best teaching practices. However, with all the noise in the field of education today, it isn’t always easy to figure out which practices are best. Luckily, Rebecca Alber has done just that in her recent article for Edutopia . Alber reminds us to keep our focus on purpose and intention. We weren’t surprised to find formative assessment highlighted as an effective way to assess student progress and provide meaningful feedback.

I remember how, as a new teacher, I would attend a professional development and feel inundated with new strategies. (I wanted to get back to the classroom and try them all!) After the magic of that day wore off, I reflected on the many strategies and would often think, “Lots of great stuff, but I’m not sure it’s worth the time it would take to implement it all.”

We teachers are always looking to innovate, so, yes, it’s essential that we try new things to add to our pedagogical bag of tricks. But it’s important to focus on purpose and intentionality — and not on quantity. So what really matters more than “always trying something new” is the reason behind why we do what we do.Article continued…

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Striking the Right Balance: High-Stakes Testing and Formative Assessment

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In a recent Hometownlife column for USA Today, Ed Okuniewski, deputy superintendent for the Huron Valley Schools, reminds us not to throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes to assessment. Okuniewski’s column provides a basic explanation of summative and formative assessments and stresses that each has an important place in public education.

“The word “assessment” brings about many different meanings. For some, they remember the testing they did in school. Others may think about the assessments students are currently doing. Depending on one’s view, feelings toward testing vary greatly.”

“In Huron Valley, staff administers a multitude of assessments throughout each year. These assessments come in a variety of formats and are used for different purposes. In general, assessments are classified as summative or formative. Some assessments may be both.” Article continued…

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