True to Form

A compilation of formative assessment programs to complement the Common Core-aligned tests

In 1998, Black and Wiliam defined formative assessment as “encompassing all those activities undertaken by teachers,and/or by their students, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged.” The term formative assessment has built within it by nature the merging of instruction with assessment. Shepard, Hammerness, Darling-Hammond & Rust (2005) discuss that the assessments are carried out during the teaching process for the purpose of informing and improving teaching or learning. Inherent in the word formative is formation, thus the forming of learning during instruction.

Quality formative assessment is driven by three factors: collection of student data, feedback to students, and having students self-monitor their learning. Data collected will be based on the needs of the students and the purpose of the lesson. As teachers collect data on students, real-time feedback is necessary in order to move students forward in their learning. The most critical dimension in the formative-assessment process is the formative monitoring by students of their own learning. When students take responsibility for their own learning processes and are aware of what they know and don’t know, it influences and has a powerful impact on their overall student achievement.

Language Magazine has compiled the following list of formative-assessment programs which help educators help their students succeed in the Common Core-aligned tests created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC):

Literacy Assessment

Pearson DRA2+ App for iPad
Pearson brings the ease of the tablet environment to literacy assessment with the Developmental Reading Assessment, Second Edition PLUS (DRA2+) iPad app. This new app guides teachers through the formative reading assessment as they observe, record, and evaluate changes in reading performances of K–8 students. Thousands of schools and districts across the U.S. and around the world turn to the DRA2+ as a proven, research-based assessment that gives educators the right mix of tools to monitor changes in student reading performance. With the ability to identify independent reading levels and provide a focus for instruction, teachers are empowered to meet each student’s individual needs. The DRA2+ also includes a word-analysis component to observe and assess foundational skills, as well as the progress-monitoring assessment to monitor student progress and inform instruction through multiple, brief passages in both fiction and nonfiction. In the personalized environment of a tablet, teachers can quickly and easily score student reading performance by recording them reading aloud for on-demand playback. With the app, available in both English and Spanish, they can diagnose reading proficiency and determine students’ DRA2 independent reading levels, monitoring the progress of struggling readers. Data from the assessments delivered using the app can be uploaded to the DRA Dashboard Management System, allowing teachers and administrators instant access to student-, class-, school- and district-level results to guide data-driven decisions.

Questar Degrees of Reading Power (DRP)
Questar Assessment’s Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) helps teachers assess all students for what they know and where they need more work, employing a scientifically developed scale of text complexity that measures reading ability and text complexity in a single metric to pinpoint the exact level of each student’s individual reading comprehension. With that knowledge, teachers can scaffold individual instruction to the right degree of intensity and challenge. Included is the DRP Text Analyzer, which measures text complexity and provides a DRP score for any 150-word passage.

Language Assessment

Test of English Language Learning (TELL)
Pearson’s TELL (Test of English Language Learning) is a tablet-based assessment developed to support schools as they ensure the growing population of English language learners (ELLs) builds English skills and stays on track to meet today’s rigorous academic standards. Covering all four foundational language skills-listening, speaking, reading and writing—the assessments are aligned to today’s standards. It is an interactive assessment experience-students watch video clips and interact with pictures and words, then answer questions out loud. They listen, write, read, and speak—all with no markups or grading by teachers. TELL screens, diagnoses, and monitors each ELL student’s progress throughout the school year. Student responses—written and spoken—are automatically scored by Pearson’s automated scoring technologies, providing teachers with access to accurate results to inform instruction within minutes. Over the past 15 years, Pearson’s spoken and written language assessment technologies have scored millions of responses and are supported by research studies that demonstrate that they score as accurately as an expert human grader. Developed in response to the specific needs of educators working with ELL students, TELL leverages the power of technology to provide a digital solution for assessing progress in a fun and engaging tablet environment.

Avant’s Spanish Heritage Language (SHL) Test
The SHL Test measures the Spanish language skill levels of students by focusing on the unique characteristics of the learner’s grammar, verb use, spelling, and vocabulary. As a web-based, multi-stage curriculum-neutral test that allows early exit for lower-level students and deeper assessment of writing and speaking for higher-level students, it can be used for placement and awarding credit in Spanish heritage-language programs. “We have seen increasing interest in assessing the language skills of Spanish heritage speakers in both secondary and post-secondary education. This interest is driven by the need for accurate placement and awarding credit for the millions of students in the U.S. who are heritage Spanish speakers,” says David Bong, CEO and founder of Avant.

Classroom Assessment

Naiku Classroom Assessment Software
Naiku’s cloud-based classroom-assessment software is used by schools and districts to quickly measure and track each student’s proficiency of standards in any subject and grade, and is used by individual teachers as well as by groups of teachers with common assessments. Using metacognitive tools of confidence, justification/journaling, and reflection, it provides teachers with a ready means of enabling teacher-student interactive feedback as part of everyday assessment to help drive student achievement. With the addition of curriculum mapping, teachers can now use Naiku to comprehensively plan for the standards they expect to have their students learn, as well as measure, monitor, and track performance against these standards throughout the term so they can inform and personalize their instruction to better ensure all students reach their potential.

Used by thousands of school districts around the country, Pearson’s aimsweb is an assessment, data-management, and reporting system. Designed to universally screen and monitor student progress, it uses brief, valid, and reliable measures of reading, math, language arts, and behavior. With aimswebPlus, teachers will have a new suite of assessments more closely aligned with standards, along with the ability to administer a battery of measures that yields additional reporting information to inform instruction. Additionally, beginning at second grade, assessments will be online, making them easy and convenient to administer. Reporting feedback capabilities span a wide spectrum, from individual student progress to holistic district performance.

Measurement Incorporated’s Classroom Assessment (MICA)
MICA is an interactive tool for teachers and students in grades 3–12. MICA allows teachers to create online assessments in English/language arts and mathematics and design tests by selecting from a rich bank of high-quality test items in a variety of interactive question formats, including multiple choice, constructed response, and technology-enhanced items. MICA’s flexible scoring system allows for automated machine scoring and teacher scoring. Interactive lessons, growth and performance reports, and collaboration tools make MICA an important assessment tool.

Edulastic, a formative-assessment platform offered free of charge to teachers, includes 23 different technology-enhanced question types, and provides instant scoring and feedback that enables teachers to see which areas students are struggling with and to course correct in real time.

Earlier this year, Edulastic added new technology-enhanced question types to the existing options,including Drag and Drop, Resequence, and Expression Evaluator. The new question types include number line, matching tables, drag-and-drop classification, evidence-based selected response (or “hot text”), and tabbed passage-based questions.
The latest release includes Scratchpad—the interactive equivalent of scratch paper. This enables students to show their work in an online assessment using widgets such as graph paper, protractor, ruler, and Math Editor. Teachers can use this critical data to pinpoint key misconceptions and formulate remediation.

The existing bank includes questions at different levels, so specialized assessments can be prepared for different sets of students. Taking this one step further, tests can be prepared in English using the existing question bank, then adapted by the user into other languages for a version specialized to English learners.