Assessment is a process used by teachers and students before, during, and after instruction to provide feedback and adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve student achievement and to provide appropriate challenge for all students at their instructional levels.
Seeks to make an overall judgment of progress made at the end of a defined period of instruction. They occur at the end of a school level, grade, or course, or are administered at certain grades for purposes of state or local accountability. These are considered high-stakes assessments and the results are often used in conjunction with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). They are designed to produce clear data on the student’s accomplishments at key points in his or her academic career. Scores on these assessments usually become part of the student’s permanent record and are statements as to whether or not the student has fallen short of, met, or exceeded the expected standards. Whereas the results of formative assessments are primarily of interest to students and the teachers, the results of summative assessments are also of great interest to parents, the faculty as a whole, the central administration, the press and the public at large. It is the data from summative assessments on which public accountability systems are based. If the results of these assessments are reported with reference to standards and individual students, they can be used as diagnostic tools by teachers to plan instruction and guide the leadership team in developing strategies that help improve student achievement. Examples of summative assessment are PSSA and Terra Nova.
Used by teachers and students during instruction to provide feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of intended instructional outcomes.
CCSSO(2008) contextualizes formative assessment as follows:
Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of intended instructional outcomes.
The primary purpose of the formative assessment process, as conceived in this definition, is to provide evidence that is used by teachers and students to inform instruction and learning during the teaching/learning process. Effective formative assessment involves collecting evidence about how student learning is progressing during the course of instruction so that necessary instructional adjustments can be made to close the gap between students’ current understanding and the desired goals. Formative assessment is not an adjunct to teaching but, rather, integrated into instruction and learning with teachers and students receiving frequent feedback.
One key feature of this definition is its requirement that formative assessment be regarded as a process rather than a particular kind of assessment. In other words, there is no such thing as “a formative test.” Instead, there are a number of formative assessment strategies that can be implemented during classroom instruction. These range from informal observations and conversations to purposefully planned instructionally embedded techniques designed to elicit evidence of student learning to inform and adjust instruction.
A second important part of the definition is its unequivocal requirement that the formative assessment process involve both teachers and students. The students must be actively involved in the systematic process intended to improve their learning. The process requires the teacher to share learning goals with students and provide opportunities for students to monitor their ongoing progress.
In Pennsylvania we are defining formative assessment as classroom based assessment that allows teachers to monitor and adjust their instructional practice in order to meet the individual needs of their students. Formative assessment can consist of formal instruments or informal observations.
The key is how the results are used. Results should be used to shape teaching and learning. It is recommended that information from formative assessment should NOT be used for grading purposes. Black and Wiliam (1998) define formative assessment broadly to include instructional formats that teachers utilize in order to get information that when used diagnostically alter instructional practices and have a direct impact student learning and achievement. Under this definition, formative assessment encompasses questioning strategies, active engagement check-ins, (such as response cards, white boards, random selection, think-pair-share, popsicle sticks for open-ended questions, and numbered heads) and analysis of student work based on set rubrics and standards including homework and tests. Assessments are formative when the information is used to adapt instructional practices to meet individual student needs as well as providing individual students corrective feedback that allows them to “reach” set goals and targets. Ongoing formative assessment is an integral part of effective instructional routines that provide teachers with the information they need to differentiate and make adjustments to instructional practice in order to meet the needs of individual students.
When teachers know how students are progressing and where they are having trouble, they can use this information to make necessary instructional adjustments, such as re-teaching, trying alternative instructional approaches, or offering more opportunities for practice. The use of ongoing formative classroom assessment data is an imperative. Effective teachers seamlessly integrate formative assessment strategies into their daily instructional routines.
Designed to provide feedback to both the teacher and the student about how the student is progressing towards demonstrating proficiency on grade level standards. Well-designed benchmark assessments and standards-based assessments measure the degree to which a student has mastered a given concept; measure concepts, skills, and/or applications; reported by referencing the standards, not other students’ performance; serve as a test to which teachers want to teach; and measure performance regularly, not only at a single moment in time.
Examples of benchmark assessments are:
Ascertains, prior to instruction, each student’s strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills. Establishing these permits the instructor to adjust the curriculum to meet pupils’ unique needs.
Examples of diagnostic assessments are DRAs, running records, GRADE, and GMADE.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education offers Classroom Diagnostic Tools (CDT) to LEAs in Reading/Literature, Writing/ English Composition, Mathematics, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Science, Biology and Chemistry. For more information click here.
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