Schools focus on formative assessment

Formative assessment was the focus for nearly 200 teachers and administrators from schools across Maine earlier this month who attended a three-day training institute at Sunday River in Bethel.

The educators who attended the institute from Aug. 1 to 3 came from nearly 70 schools that have landed on the Continuous Improvement Priority Status, or CIPS, list as a result of standardized test performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

They left the conference with implementation plans for regular use of formative assessment at their schools as a way to inform students about their academic progress and to help teachers determine how they should adjust instruction to improve student learning.

Jan Chappuis and Cassandra Erkins — both nationally recognized assessment experts — served as the conference’s primary trainers.

Formative assessment is a practice that focuses on regularly gathering information that indicates what a student has and hasn’t learned, and allows teachers to tailor their instruction accordingly. The practice is designed for more frequent use than standardized tests, which fall into the “summative assessment” category.

The summer institute was a first for the Maine Department of Education’s CIPS team, which has tried to make formative assessment training more widely available to Maine educators, said Rachelle Tome, who directs the Department’s federal accountability programs.

“Formative assessment was a key area that many schools wanted to pursue,” she said.

The 70 schools represented at the three-day training each sent teams of three to five teachers and administrators. In addition to designing implementation plans for their schools, they learned how to lead professional development for colleagues focused on using assessment to help along the learning process.

Resources and more information

  • Steve Vose, CIPS School Improvement Coordinator
    Maine Department of Education

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