What is Formative Assessment?

Assessment is a powerful tool that is used for a variety of purposes, including monitoring student progress, evaluating student achievement, making instructional decisions, and evaluating curriculum (NCTM 1995). When used as an integral part of teaching and learning, purposeful assessment gauges student progress and provides information to make instructional decisions. 

Implementation of the CCSSM and the accompanying assessment consortia provide an opportunity to focus on two purposes of assessment: monitoring student progress, and making instructional decisions. Both of these purposes call for formative assessment. According to Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, and Wiliam (2004), formative assessment is any assessment task designed to promote students’ learning. Moreover, Black et al. (2004) stated that:

An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information that teachers and their students can use as feedback in assessing themselves and one another and in modifying the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. Such assessment becomes ‘formative assessment’ when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs. (p. 10)

Developing Assessments for the Common Core

A means of assessment is being developed to accompany the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Two assessment coalitions, Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), have obtained federal grants to develop assessment tools and presented drafts of these tools at a recent conference. The PARCC and SBAC presentations are both available on the NCTM website.