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Common Formative Assessments

March 30, 2008

A common formative assessment is a fancy name for a pretest, or so I thought! As an administrative team, we have begun reading and discussing the 2006 book, Common Formative Assessments authored by Larry Ainsworth and Donald Vieght. This opportunity provided me with the chance to learn more about where we (and many high-achieving schools) are heading in terms of instructional practices.

Basically, in the traditional education model a pretest is given followed by instruction. To conclude the unit, a posttest evaluates learning and grades are assigned. In this newer model, a formative assessment is given followed by analysis of the results, a differentiated instructional plan, instruction, monitoring and adjustments, more instruction and a summative assessment. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Now, the word “common” is in the title. The “common” aspect comes in when each teacher is using the same assessment. This allows us to understand each student’s present knowledge compared to the larger picture. How do I know that a 4th grade student at Harvest, is getting the same information as a 4th grade student at Pleasant Ridge and that they are getting the same as a 4th grade student at Woodland Meadows? “Common” formative and summative assessments help us understand where our students are at in terms of learning.

At the secondary level, common assessments given in an academic area are already in place in many departments. We know that all of our students who complete our world history class have been assessed on the same information, whether that took it with Mr. Fox, Mr. Smigielski, Mr. Boze or Mr. Schmier doesn’t matter.

As an administrative team, we still have extensive learning and analyzing to do regarding assessments and using the data they provide. We are looking at norm-referenced assessments through NWEA; we have reviewed (and ruled out for 2008-2009) Pearson assessment building software and have piloted a Gates reading assessment at Harvest this year. As much as I would love to have a “one size fits all” approach that can be purchased cheaply and implemented easily with nearly 100% staff buy-in right from the start – we do not live in that world!

Here in Saline, we are blessed with professional staff that is committed to continuous improvement, which makes this process much easier for all of us. We are also blessed with families that value education and support staff and administration as we advance our understanding of best practices.

More to come on this topic….

One Comment leave one →
  1. excuddehock permalink
    October 1, 2008 1:00 pm

    Hi
    Nice site!

    G’night

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