Formative assessment is a teaching tool that supports all learners, but it is especially critical for students who are struggling, as it holds the potential for changing the learning outcome. It is a quick way for teachers to evaluate learning needs and academic progress in their classroom. Here are some examples of how formative assessment can support special education goals.
With so many formative assessment options available, how do you know which one is best for students, teachers, and administrators? After all, the needs for each of these stakeholders vary considerably. As you and your team make an important decision about which program you will select using funds from Indiana’s formative assessment grant, I hope that you’ll carefully consider our solution, Pivot Inspect.
Computer-Adaptive vs. Fixed-Form Assessments
Many formative (interim) assessment programs, including those provided by NWEA and STAR, are computer-adaptive. While this approach has clear benefits for a set of specific purposes, teachers have no control over the items students will see. In other words, teachers can’t answer a fundamental question using a computer-adaptive tool: Have students learned the specific skills I’ve taught?
The idea that we should accelerate students' math curriculum to ensure they can complete Calculus before graduation was a trend in the early 2000's that we now are able to see the results from. Requiring students to take Algebra I in middle school has proven problematic because there are many students being accelerated without the required foundational skills for future math success.
While these students may be able to earn a passing grade and pass the state test for Algebra I, the lack of foundational skills and many standards which are left unmastered eventually catch up with students as they pursue higher math courses. With our shift to college- and career-readiness standards, we must rethink how we are determining placement into accelerated math classes for middle school students and how we are designing the middle school curriculum to ensure students do not have gaps in their learning.