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This was originally posted on Assessment FOR Learning.

Salem High School Earth Science teacher, Wes Lester, recently sent me this link to a post on Edutopia about Formative Assessment (AFL). I found it to be an excellent post and worth reading, so I left a comment stating this. Because I left a comment I then received an email every time someone else posted a comment. One such comment made me realize that some people out there do not fully understand Formative Assessment or AFL.

Here was the comment:

Yes, I think formative assessment is important however it is not the only measure of a student's success. Unfortunately we are currently in an environment that places so much emphasis on formative and standardized testing. In my school, it seems as if the formal testing never ends. They are tested in September (a formative), October (SRI), January (formative), March (state test), April (SRI), and finally in May (formative) not to mention the unit test required by the district. The structure, lenght and environment that is created around these test are such that students become desensitised. In an effort to help make this over testing environment tolerable, I must come up with alternative ways of conducting my own assessments.

It has gotten to a point that the students moan when they are told that it's a testing day. Several pupils have even asked why there is so much testing. I candidly explained that testing won't go away and that even when you get older there are yet more test to come. (driver's test, SAT's, professional test, etc.) This explanation seemed to make it more palatable. In truth, I feel that these children are tested because of the demographics of the district and past performances. Neighboring counties within the same state don't administer nearly as many assessments.

This person has confused Formative Assessment with an official testing program. It's probably not this teacher's fault as it sounds as though the school district has bought into a specific benchmark assessment program and called it formative assessment. While benchmark tests and testing programs can be used as formative assessments, effective Formative Assessment is what occurs in a classroom each and everyday.

Formative Assessment is graded and it is ungraded. It is formal and it is informal. It is big and it is small. It is ANYTHING that provides the teacher with feedback on how well students are learning, and it is ANYTHING that provides students with feedback so they can guide their learning. It should not lead to students asking "why there is so much testing" or "moan[ing] when they are told that it's a test day." It should not be "the,,, measure of a student's success" but rather an indicator of how they are learning so that they can end up having success.

I'm glad that our school is encouraging teachers to view Formative Assessment as a tool/philosophy that can look different in each and every classroom.

Click here to read the entire post from Edutopia.

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