Developing Quality Formative Assessments for the Classroom

Developing Quality Formative Assessments for the Classroom

Wendy Chalk and Steve Ramirez
Life Long Learning & Associates
P.O. Box 2804
Blue Jay, CA. 92317


With the advent of No Child Left Behind, the need for high quality assessment tools became a necessity for districts, schools and teachers. The need for student data, which accurately reflected what a student knew and could do, resulted in the creation of high stakes achievement tests by states and some districts.   This reality filtered down to the classroom level with the work of Dufour and the concept of Professional Learning Communities (PLC).   Overnight, teachers were expected to create standards-based common tests and/or assessments without significant professional development.  The contributing factors that commonly affect an assessment’s  fairness, reliability and validity were typically overlooked, therefore, the resulting student achievement data was misleading or distorted.

The newly adopted  Common Core Standards (CCS) and the assessment guidelines put forth by the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC)  demand better quality tools than those of the past.   No longer is simply assessing low level student knowledge or skills sufficient.  Student reasoning and problem solving as well as their ability to effectively communicate thinking is critical to success on the new state tests.  As a result, the classroom teacher  needs to become more savvy and strategic in the (1) consumption of publisher made assessments,  (2) the design of their own classroom tools and (2) in the use of classroom assessment data.   The purpose of this project is to build the capacity and expertise of teachers in designing high quality classroom assessments.  Beginning with small formative assessments, to creating chapter and unit tests as well as other forms of alternative assessments, this project will lay a solid foundation for all future work.

Project Overview:

This proposal is based on a preliminary agreement to utilize the resources of Life Long Learning and Associates to:

  1. Support SUSD teachers in developing high quality formative assessments for their classroom.

  2. Deepen teacher understanding of the factors that influence assessment quality and validity.

  3. Guide teachers in the use of district technology (Illuminate software and item bank) in developing and analyzing their student achievement data

  4. Explore the process and practical use of formative assessments as a tool for increasing student achievement.

  5. Provide time and expertise as teachers design formative assessments for their classroom .

  6. Provide a realistic process for analyzing student achievement data and using data to inform instructional decisions.

To accomplish these goals, Life Long Learning and Associates will:

  1. Provide professional development and resources  for each step in the design process.

  2. Provide models that reflect the desired criteria for high quality assessments.

  3. Work with district leadership to incorporate district resources into the design process.

  4. Provide one-on-one support to teachers who request additional assistance.

  5. Embed time for teachers to collaborate and design assessments for their classroom.

  6. Use a modified psychometric process for creating valid and reliable assessment tools.

Professional Development  Sessions: 4 days

Phase I – Planning Phase

  • Defining the various uses of formative assessments (FA).

  • Exploring different designs for a FA based on data desired.

  • Solidifying the purpose of the FA assessment system (by team or teacher or school).

  • Working from standards vs. working from chapters, topics or lessons.

  • Identifying the key standards (aka power, essential) to target for the assessment

  • Factors that influence reliability and validity in an assessment

  • Why standards need to be weighted.

  • The design of a CDAS system, and why this system works.

Phase II – Design Phase

  • Typical design flaws to avoid if you want good data.

  • What constitutes a quality prompt (stem) and how to write them.

  • What constitutes a quality distractor?

  • Ensuring alignment of the assessment to a standard.

  • How to write and/or recognize the cognitive level of a question.

Phase III –  Pilot and Data Analysis  

  • How to conduct an item analysis.

  • What factors influence reliability and validity?

  • Use illuminate statistics to analyze items.

  • What to look for in test statistics.

Phase IV –  Setting Performance Bands and Refining Instruction
It is highly recommended this session be repeated during the year.

  • How to establish the performance bands for any assessment

  • How performance bands can be used for standards-based grading

  • How to analyze student achievement data as a team – protocols

  • What to look for in a data meeting

  • Using data to make instructional decisions.

  • How data can help you plan for reteaching.


By the end of the 4 sessions each team will have produced

  • A minimum of two or three  formative assessments which have undergone the complete process.

  • Reteaching lessons informed by student achievement data, to complement each assessment.