Common Formative Assessments - Part 1

Attending a two-day conference with Larry Ainsworth on developing common formative assessments. The room is packed with 160 teachers and leaders from the region - it is a pretty diverse group. Larry Ainsworth does a remarkable job in working with the crowd and in reminding the leaders in the group that they need to participate as well.

The structure of the day is such that we have an input session, then work in small groups, input session, work in small groups. The goal at the end of two days is that we will have "unwrapped" standards for an upcoming topic/unit and used a template to create some formative assessments.

Some take-aways from Day 1:

- Evaluating your current assessment system can be a simple, but eye-opening exercise. After listing all the assessments we use, we then ranked and coded them to indicate those that make the greatest impact on instruction and student learning, those that aligned to "power standards," those that emphasize literacy/numeracy and others. The purpose? Are we getting the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to assessment?

- We are over testing and under assessing.

- The revised Blooms are back!! The final cognitive piece of create is critical - being able to assess the cognitive load of standards/state assessments in critical to ensure alignment of our formative assessments. (Why ask a "remember" level question if the standards/assessment require "analysis"?)

- If the standards are asking for "lower level" Blooms and our expectations are higher - raise them up! Just notate them as "teacher added" so that someone who reads them afterwards understands. (This happened after it was observed by more than one group that the NYS Social Studies standards are fairly low level.)

- Under this model - essential questions and "big ideas" are not identical to the UbD model. They apply more to the individual units or learning goals - not quite as lofty.

- "Big Ideas" are those things that at the end of the learning activities, we would be happy that kids could articulate in their own language. "Essential Questions" are the questions that would get us the "Big Idea" answer.

Tomorrow - we write assessments!

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