by David GoldhillAtlantic Monthly September 2009
The subject of formative assessment came up in the Comments thread for Allison's post about middle school math pre-tests.*
Sitting here in Evanston Hospital, keeping watch over my mom and reading the National Reading Panel Reports of the Subgroups in the lulls between crises,** I had a blinding flash of recognition when I read the passage above.
My blinding flash was not about hospital sterilization procedures and physician hand-washing, however. No. My blinding flash of recognition was all about formative assessment, (aka collect & correct).***
Ed and I have now been lobbying our school district to use formative assessment (pdf file) ("assessment for learning") for four years. Four years!
Moreover, the district has been paying formative assessment consultants to teach teachers how to use formative assessment for at least two years.
But do we have formative assessment?
No, we do not.
Not only do we not have formative assessment, we do have administrators sending FOILable emails to parents in which they openly refuse to provide formative assessment when directly asked to do so.
Formative assessment at its simplest means: find out what the kids learned, then reteach the stuff they didn't learn.
Can't get it; district won't do it. Or doesn't do it. Either one. I don't know any district that does.
And that is "deeply unsettling," as Goldhill says. How is it possible that parents have to beg schools to provide an essentially cost-free idea that stands a chance of getting kids to college ready to do college work?
update 1:49 Chicago:
* [news flash: at the moment, I can't log on to the old ktm site, which had a number of good posts about formative assessment. Usually when this happens the site eventually becomes available again, but we'll see. I really need to get it backed up, finally. Here's the URL for the search page: http://www.kitchentablemath.net/twiki/bin/view/Kitchen/CommentsSearch]
** Do you know the meaning of the words meaning troponin leakage? I do.
*** It's possible I have been writing an education blog for too long.