spacerThe New England Comprehensive Center acts on behalf of all students in New England by working with education leaders in each state to fulfill the promise of No Child Left Behind.

Margaret Heritage Webinar Now Available: "What Does Formative Assessment Mean to a State Department of Education?"

Margaret Heritage photoONLINE: At the request of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), NECC collaborated with the Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center (AACC) to offer a webinar on Formative Assessment featuring national expert Margaret Heritage. Peers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire departments of education joined representatives from Rhode Island for the event.

NEEC�s liaison to the AACC, Steve Hamilton, explained that there is some confusion between actual formative assessments and assessments advertised as "formative" that are really more "benchmark." The webinar was intended as an initial step in developing a common language.

"Formative assessment might as easily have been called �formative instruction,'" Heritage explained in the webinar: it's about using feedback "to close the gap between current learning and desired goals." She likened formative assessment to an engineer�s continuous check that a train is staying on the rails. Benchmark assessments are too infrequent to prevent a train from derailing, so to speak. Furthermore, she argued, the research base is stronger for the validity of formative assessment than it is for benchmark assessments.

Using formative assessment will require a different skill set than used in more traditional forms of instruction. "Stand and deliver" won't work, Heritage said, "There's too little discourse about student thinking." Formative assessment rests on several deeply challenging tasks, among them the exceedingly difficult one of having a clear learning goal and understanding its place on the pathways to proficiency in a discipline. Also necessary are explicit, transparent criteria for success, multiple sources of evidence of a student�s learning, timely feedback, and a classroom culture where not understanding is okay.

There are a number of ways that state education leaders can promote and support classroom use of formative assessment, Heritage said. They include articulating a vision of seamless, formative instruction; developing a common language, consistent message, and a coherent model of learning; using external partners to build capacity and create structure; and allowing time for the practice to develop.

Initiatives are currently underway in Iowa, Montana, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, and Vermont.


Webinar Recording:

WebEx icon Play WebEx recording (approx. run time: 1 hour 20 minutes)

PDF document Download presentation slides


June 15, 2009