Why we need formative assessment

I was in a meeting today for the TQP grant and one of the topics discussed at great length was formative assessment.  We didn’t talk about how to do formative assessment, but the need for it and how it isn’t done well or possibly consistently enough.  When we talk about improving the quality of education and becoming more effective, one thing that seems to stick out is the compliance factor, rather than the formative assessment factor.  We talk about the need to comply with local, state, and national standards, benchmarks, etc., but what doesn’t seem to be discussed is the role that formative assessment plays in making effective teachers and how that can impact sumative assessments.

Formative assessment is important in teacher evaluations above and beyond any compliance assessments, because it allows the teacher and their administrator to identify an area where they may be weak.  Then the teacher, and administrator can address the problem, which may be an institution wide problem, which can then guide professional development for the school and/or district.  What’s important to keep in mind with formative assessment is that evaluators aren’t saying a teacher isn’t doing their job, just that they can do better.  We all can do better, but we have gotten used to not having to change our practice.  This is why teachers need to take the information, insight, and data collected from an evaluation and make improvements in their practice.  Evaluations don’t need to be a bad thing that happens, but rather an opportunity to improve to make the best impact.

This is kind of a random post but I think it is an important topic that we don’t seem to talk about enough when we discuss change and education.


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