Is REAL Formative Assessment Even Possible?

Let me start with a simple, researched-based truth:

Formative assessment—timely feedback gathered and reviewed during the course of a learning experience that serves to 'inform' both teachers AND students and allows for the 'formation' of new learning plans—matters.

Need proof?

Let’s start with the fact that after conducting a meta-analysis of every significant research study on achievement in the past three decades, Bob Marzano believes in formative assessment.

In fact, the conclusions he’s drawn in What Works in Schools suggest that providing students with timely and specific feedback on their levels of mastery can account for percentile gains of anywhere from 21 to 41 points—higher than gains caused by other school-based achievement factors including parent and community involvement, safe and orderly environments, and collegiality in the schoolhouse.

As John Hattie—an educational researcher cited by Marzano in What Works—writes, “The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback. The simplest prescription for improving education must be 'dollops of feedback.'” (As quoted in Marzano, 2003, p. 37)

But I’m really starting to wonder whether or not effective formative assessment is even possible in the classroom.


Here’s why: I’ve spent the first four weeks of this school year trying to make formative assessment a bigger part of my own instructional practices—and it’s damn near killed me.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of the work that I’m doing and am convinced that I’ve adopted some of the best practices suggested by assessment experts ranging from Marzano to Stiggins, Ainsworth, Chappius and Chappius.

Here’s what I’m doing:

I’ve got short lists of essential objectives (see here) called I Can Statements written in student friendly language that students refer to before every lesson and use to self-assess their own progress towards mastery.

I’ve developed exemplars demonstrating a full-range of performance for almost every subjective task that we’ve tackled (see here, here and here).

I’ve given two or three practice assignments—tasks that count for less than 10 percent of a child’s grade and are designed solely to give students feedback on their individual strengths and weaknesses and to give me a sense for the intellectual hiccups that my students are having around the concepts we are studying—for every essential skill that we’re required to study.

I’m using my Livescribe pen to record quick mini-tutorials on the concepts that great numbers of my kids seem to be struggling with (see here).

I’ve used student responders to quickly measure student mastery and to give my kids a chance to instantly see whether or not they have a firm grasp on the content we’re studying in class.

I’ve used our peer tutoring program—a system of intervention that pairs struggling students with successful peers to rework tasks and to review content—to provide support before summative assessments.

I’ve used our working lunch program—a 30 minute one-on-one review session with the classroom teacher—to help kids that continue to struggle after peer tutoring.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Heck, I’d bet that there aren’t many teachers who are taking these kinds of steps on a regular basis anywhere in America.

Here’s are the problems, though:

First, I’m probably three-weeks behind in my curriculum—formatively assessing and then taking action on what I’m learning is a relatively time-consuming process, especially when kids aren’t mastering content at the rate that my district’s pacing guide suggests is possible.

Second, I’m completely exhausted and doubtful that I can keep up this work all year long. I haven’t seen my daughter or my wife much this month simply because responsible formative assessment is an incredibly time-consuming process.

Heck, just last night I spent 3 hours grading one set of graphs because I wanted to get them back to my students in a timely way—but that required working from 5:30-8:30 and missing dinner with my family and bedtime with my little girl.

The past two weekends in a row were similar stories as I spent 5-6 hours both weekends putting exemplars together, writing remediation activities and designing new lessons to review challenging content.

Add on top of this my need to work several different part time jobs simply to pay my bills—combined with the meetings I’m required to attend during 3 of my 5 weekly planning periods and the room cleaning that I’m required to do now that our district has cut back on janitorial services—and it becomes clear that I’m going to have to make a choice between formative assessment and living a life.

If a highly-motivated guy like me is starting to doubt formative assessment, I’ve GOT to believe that there are thousands—if not millions—of teachers doubting formative assessment too.

So what steps can school leaders take to make formative assessment a more widely-accepted and doable practice in their buildings?

Here are a few suggestions:

Make it painfully clear that you DON’T expect your teachers to march through their entire curriculum.

In my 18 years of teaching, I’ve NEVER heard a principal tell me that it was okay to choose a small handful of essential objectives from my curriculum to focus on.

That creates tension in teachers who know that to formatively assess their way through an entire curriculum would be simply impossible but who also worry about what their principals will say if they pare down the “required curriculum” without permission.

By making it clear that the first step in formative assessment is deciding on a manageable set of objectives that REALLY matter, principals instantly make the recursive nature of formative assessment practices more approachable for their teachers.

Find ways to reduce the number of students that each teacher serves.

I work with 120 students this year—and while that’s a pretty average load for a middle/high school teacher, it can make formative assessment a nightmare.

From strictly an assessment standpoint, I’ve got to find ways to collect information on 120 kids every time I introduce new content or skills.

Then, I’ve got to record that information and report it to parents, students, and other professionals in my building.

The entire process takes about 3 hours for a typical assignment—and that’s time I just don’t have.

Add on top of that the other clerical tasks that come with 120 students—communicating with 120 sets of parents, responding to emails, collecting permission slips, attending special programs meetings—and it’s painfully obvious that formatively assessing large groups of kids ain’t going to be easy.

That’s why I'd love to see principals working to find ways to reduce the number of students that each teacher serves.

Work in a middle school or a high school?

Hiring people who carry multiple certifications and creating integrated classes—middle schools could consider language arts/social studies and math/science classes—can cut student loads without requiring additional resources.

Work in an elementary school?

Convert beyond-the-classroom positions into teaching positions. I know of an elementary principal who cut class sizes to 15 in her building by eliminating teacher assistant positions completely.

While it’s a nontraditional move, she’s created a situation where teachers can really pull off sustained formative assessment efforts because they’re working with 15 kids instead of 120.

Eliminate meetings, Eliminate meetings, and then eliminate some more meetings.

If principals really believe in formative assessment, they’ve got to recognize that it’s an incredibly time-consuming process.

That means the limited planning and professional development time that teachers actually DO have in schools needs to be protected if we’re ever going to make formative assessment practices a priority in our buildings.

When we try to cram formative assessment practices into the time that we have leftover after faculty meetings, department meetings, grade level meetings, and professional learning team meetings, we just shouldn’t be surprised when they fail.

Instead, school leaders should ask that teachers meet with ONE collaborative group and one collaborative group only. Then, they should require that collaborative groups make formative assessment a priority.

Meetings should focus on studying formative assessment data, creating exemplars, improving rubrics, and designing remediation and enrichment opportunities for kids.

The simple truth is teachers just don’t have the time to do formative assessment correctly if their attention is divided between the kinds of traditional meetings we’ve always been required to attend.

Does any of this make sense? Essentially what I’m trying to say is that I’m convinced that formative assessment MATTERS—but I’m not convinced that formative assessment is POSSIBLE unless we take some drastic steps to make it a priority in our buildings.

I’m sure I’ll write about formative assessment again—it’s an area of professional focus for me this year. I’d love to hear your thinking, too.

How can I make this work easier?

35 thoughts on “Is REAL Formative Assessment Even Possible?

  1. Kit Brizuela

    Your setbacks are not just from the work involved in creating and “grading” (the true meaning of grading is putting the work in piles or categories, giving feedback takes even more effort); the real reason you are not able to cover the whole curriculum is the time it takes to reteach and teach well!

  2. Rob Siegel

    Tempered Radical (aka Bill)!
    I have been completely enthralled with your post and all its related content and links. This is the kind of conversation I must have with my fellow teachers and district admins. “Tough but worthy” is enough of a stimulus to make it happen. This forces us to change “business as usual” and yes, it will take time. I teach a class on “Using Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning” at Oregon State University, and I will be referring my students to your blog. You appear to be a good candidate for the “Khan Academy For Teachers”. Thanks for taking the time to document your experience and include so many valuable sample resources.

  3. Beaker

    I don’t think that we can expect ourselves to re-vamp everything in one year. I think that you may have bitten off too much at once. Rick Wormeli – my differentiated instruction guru – always says to try one new thing a month, or even less often than that. Maybe it would be easier to tackle if you did less formative assessment, but still did some. As you go from one year to the next, all the work you did from the previous year will still be applicable (exemplars, new activities) and you won’t be re-creating the wheel every year, just adding to it. Creating new curriculum caused me to miss most of last school year with my family, so I don’t always take my own advice.
    That said, I know that the idea of managing all of the formative assessments and differentiated activities is incredibly overwhelming, and I wonder if I am capable of it. I don’t have the number of students that you do or the number of meetings, and I struggle to keep up – and I’m not doing the amount of formative assessing that you are. I have goals in that direction, and you have just outlined my fears perfectly. I am not willing to give up my personal life again. It’s a very frustrating situation.

  4. Bill Ferriter

    Hey K,
    Good to see you again and hope you and your daughter are both well!
    And while Im not totally sold on Khan Academy yet, what I do love is the potential that it holds for mass customization in the classroom. I struggle to find ways to create materials that challenge each child individually—-and Khan can help me to address that challenge.
    I worry about the perception that it can be a complete replacement for the classroom teacher, but like the idea of seeing it edge its way into more of our classrooms and schools.
    Rock on,
    Bill

  5. Chris Wejr

    Thanks for such an honest post, Bill. This is an area in which I am really passionate. The most powerful thing that we can do as educators is focus on formative assessment. I think what you are doing is awesome but if I could add a bit of advice:
    simplify – effective teachers use formative assessment all the time and do not realize it. Just by providing ongoing descriptive feedback in the form of dialogue can be very powerful.
    mark less – we need to be more aware that we do not need to mark everything – students can self and peer assess as long as they understand the learning intentions and criteria. Many learning activities can be assessed through dialogue with students
    separate the summative from the formative – if it is formative, don’t put it in the gradebook. When it is summative, use it for the grade.
    You have done the three key things IMO: clear learning intentions, clear criteria, and the use of descriptive feedback. Keep going with this and infuse a bit more each term/year rather than trying to do it all at once.
    Changing the lens to more of a coach really helped me. When I coached a number of different teams, the formative assessments happened in practices through ongoing feedback. The summative assessments happened in games (and often the summative became formative because it was clear we needed to go back and work on certain skills).
    So, I guess my key bit of advice is to do what you can right now – challenge yourself but not to the point that it affects your life.
    Baby steps… awesome reflection buddy.

  6. kborden

    I am pretty excited about what I am seeing with Khan Academy. The kids I know who are using it love the instant feedback and their teachers love being able to have at their fingertips loads of data to use to shape supplemental, remedial, and/or horizontal/vertical acceleration activities and instruction.

  7. Janet | expateducator.com

    I feel your pain. I’m currently sitting in front of a stack of writing papers. I have gotten better at the formative assessments, though. Here are a couple of my tricks:
    1. Do some quick “slate assessments”. This works especially in math. I can’t watch everyone at once, but I can see who is getting their slates up last – and whether or not their looking around to see what others are doing. I then pull those students aside for a more comprehensive assessment (and re-teaching as necessary).
    2. Getting behind means you have to be crystal-clear on what is and is not important to cover. I’d rather have students learn many things well (and I do end up covering a lot) than have them half-learn everything. In _Focus_, Rick Schmoker advocates for a simplification of curriculum. I highly recommend reading it.
    3. Keep an eagle-eye on the daily objective. In writing, I might say: Highlight your thesis statement and topic sentences. Be ready to show me when I walk by. Have a checklist, then pull small groups as necessary. You don’t need to see whole papers at once (they are overwhelming).
    4. Exit slips. Think about your objective for the day. Tell students, “Your ‘ticket’ to lunch is to tell me…” My students usually have to demonstrate mental math before exiting for lunch.
    Good luck!

  8. Andy

    Excellent post; you’re correct, large scale formative assessments are important, and are problematic to pull off in the real world.
    I think we should remember, however, that formative assessments can be small scale, quick and yet still provide useful information to the student and teacher.
    When I’m teaching a music class with handheld whiteboards for each student, and they write “answers” on the board and share them with me, that’s providing feedback that I can use to pace the material and gauge individual understanding. The students also receive feedback regarding possible answers.
    This doesn’t negate the importance of what you’re discussing, but I think it’s a mistake for us to think that all formative assessments need to be time consuming.
    As always, thanks for your your posts.

  9. Jim Askew

    There IS a difference between formative and summative assessment!
    If assessment results are used to provide information about student learning to ANYONE outside the classroom, it is summative assessment.
    If assessment results are used to provide feedback inside the classroom (just teacher and students), it is formative assessment.

  10. Bill Ferriter

    Scott wrote:
    I wonder how much of what youre doing could be
    automated by learning software. Anything that can is one less thing you
    have to do…
    that can is one less thing you have to do…
    Hey Scott,
    First, thanks for stopping by—its good to see you in this space!
    Second, I completely wish that I could use some learning software to automate this work—-but its not happening. Our district had some formative assessment software for the past few years. That was discontinued this year, I think because of the budget. Ive got one working computer in my classroom. Students arent allowed to bring their own devices to school.
    Ive got student responders, but theyre my personal set—-so Im lucky compared to my peers.
    Classic case of resource limitations making responsible instructional practices possible!
    Bill

  11. Jose Vilson

    Just gonna say it: every assessment is formative. Every single one. Even the “summative”. Thus, we’re frankly just playing ourselves trying to appease those who would have us believe there’s a difference. Your post puts this point to light thoroughly.

  12. Amelia Bumpers

    You made some great points! The formative assessment sounds like a great idea, but a lot of work without the help of building principals and other school authorities. It would be wonderful if they would hire more teachers so the classes are smaller. Then you will get more one on one time with the students in your class and that in itself would probably help the students’ progress.
    Amelia Bumpers

  13. Rob

    Bill…excellent article and you are to be commended for your efforts! You are right…the average teacher is doing nowhere near what you’re doing.
    In my dream world curriculum developers would create on-line formative assessments that produce a whole class summary of student learning (graphs) with drill-down to individual student achievement viewable by the teacher, students and parents. Been using Google Forms based exit tickets to achieve that vision with a degree of success…the front-end setup is still a lot of work, but the back-end compilation and analysis of data is instantaneous. Now if curriculum developers would just build that for me!

  14. www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=735968192

    There’s a piece missing that may be of help. If you read Black and Wiliam’s material on formative assessment, they point out that for it to be truly effective, formative assessment should include both peer- and self-assessment. I would argue that part of the instructor’s goal should be to work towards changing the balance in the formative assessment equation so that increasing amounts of written and oral feedback on student work come from peers and the student him/herself.
    Of course, I’m very impressed with what you’ve written and have passed it along to those with whom I work as a mathematics coach. They aren’t anywhere near where you are in the process, and it takes enormous courage and commitment to try to do formative assessment in any serious, consistent way. I hope, however, that you realize that it’s not all on you and that there are in fact ways to make it much less onerous.

  15. Bill Ferriter

    Jim wrote:
    Bill,
    When teachers use formative assessment to evaluate their own teaching,
    they make the decisions about what and how to improve.
    Students must be given the freedom to do the same. If the teacher
    provides exemplars and added assignments as part of student formative
    assessment, the teacher is not really giving students an opportunity to
    make the decision about how good they want their work to be.
    And he wrote:
    I use an analytic self-evaluation rubric with two columns – one for
    student assessment and one for teacher assessment. To encourage honest
    assessment, if the student assessment isnt within 10 point (plus or
    minus) of my assessment, the student loses 5 points on my recorded
    summative assignment grade.

  16. Bill Ferriter

    Renee wrote:
    It should be that we are in a position to control both how many students
    we teach and how our time is spent during our working hours.But then,
    that would require a much higher level of respect than teachers get in
    this country at this time in our history

  17. Bill Ferriter

    Matt wrote:
    A few strategies I used instead of recording to make the assessment data
    points meaningful:
    1) Sorting into piles of students who got it or needed more help.
    2) Sorting into piles of common misconceptions.
    3) Matching up students in classes who had complementary strengths and
    weaknesses.
    Not only did these tasks take less time, in my own experience, but they
    were also more meaningful to me because the sorting and matching tied
    directly into my instructional planning for the next day.
    Hey Matt,
    Thanks for stopping by. You know that I respect your opinion on this stuff.
    And Ive tried the sorting strategies that you recommend here before too—-but I find that they only really save me time when I build them around quick, simple assessments. If I have a multiple choice or short answer question that I have kids fill out an exit slip for, I can work through them quickly, but I worry that an over-reliance on these kinds of questions when making my formative assessment decisions will water down the effort completely.
    I think thats my real tension—and thats probably why I speak of REAL formative assessment in my title.
    The kinds of skills that my kids are supposed to learn cant really be fully demonstrated with simple assessments. Were writing hypotheses. Were identifying independent and dependent variables in science experiments, were making graphs that accurately communicate information. Were learning to engage in a process of scientific inquiry.
    To assess that kind of stuff the right way, I figure, requires something meatier—-and meatier, no matter how it is delivered, takes more time to evaluate, to report and to record.
    Any of this make sense?
    Bill

  18. Tammy

    Your post really struck a chord with me! I completely agree with you on nearly all your points. I have a class of 31 grade 3 students and I use formative assessment as the basis for imformed instruction. I agree that it does not allow you to cover all of the curriculum if you are teaching to the needs of your students. That is why I have covered 1 strand of math in 3 of the 4 terms but covered it well. I have tried to integrate the learning of geometry and measurement etc… into other areas and spent the majority of my time focussing on Number Sense and Numeracy units. I also try to have focus groups to work with struggling learners and to give them immediate and descriptive feedback. I just do the best I can and know in my heart that I am doing the best for my students. It IS more time consuming but it makes me feel that I am really making a difference – not just covering content – and my students are the proof. They are enthusiastic, loving learning, and excited about school!
    As for meetings taking up too much time and focussing on “housekeeping” business – I agree! My school has weekly staff meetings – Wednesday mornings for 40 minutes and Wednesday afternoons for 1 1/2 hours. AM is “nuts and bolts” and PM is supposed to be PD related but to date I’ve heard a lot of glossy initiatives but no substance. They are afraid to look at student work in a group. Nobody wants to dig deep so we will never move forward, we will continue to circle around powerpoints created by admin with no next steps. UGH!

  19. TeachMoore

    Oh, you hit a nerve with this one, Bill, and I am feeling your pain–especially the part about missing time with your family. And it’s not just you and me. I’m about to post a review of a new documentary that deals with the subject of teacher working conditions, and the personal sacrifices that many of us have to make in order to do what’s best for our students.
    It should be that we are in a position to control both how many students we teach and how our time is spent during our working hours.But then, that would require a much higher level of respect than teachers get in this country at this time in our history.
    Make time for your family: Your children only grow up once–with you or without you. If half of the students get their work back today and the other half tomorrow, the sun will still rise. Meanwhile, take hope: I see some big changes coming over the horizon for teaching in America. More on that later…

  20. Brittgow

    Hi Bill,
    I agree that formative assessment is valuable – constructivist theory tells us that we have to know where our students are at to enable them to progress. I also think Delta dc has a great point about teacher directed assessments and interventions being unsustainable, as students eventually need to monitor their own progress and achievements. Student negotiated Rubrics and self assessment may assist your students to reach those learning goals and you to get some of your life back with your family. We need dedicated professionals like you – don’t burn yourself out and leave teaching because you can’t do what (mostly researchers, not teachers) makes the biggest gains. Trust yourself and what you know about your students and their learning.

  21. Matt Townsley

    Hey Bill,
    I sense that you’re frustrated with two things. First, the amount of time needed to check for understanding on a daily basis. Second, the amount of time needed to record this information in a grade book. The “covering the curriculum” bit isn’t anything you or I can really change, so I’ll leave that issue off the table. You also mentioned the number of meetings you’re required to attend – I’m not sure if this is isolated to your district or if it’s something I just don’t see happening in my own district, so I’m leaving it off the table, too.
    A simple change I made when I was in a similar situation (doubting “real” formative assessment because of the amount of time it requires on a daily basis). I’ve seen FA defined as ‘teachers responding to identified learning needs and strengths by modifying and/or adapting teaching strategies, materials and approaches.’ I’d add that it also involves the student, too, but I think several others have mentioned that, too. Here’s the kicker, the _responses_ or change in instruction is what matters the most. It was a freeing experience when I realized I did not have to record all of the data points. A few strategies I used instead of recording to make the assessment data points meaningful:
    1) Sorting into piles of students who got it or needed more help.
    2) Sorting into piles of common misconceptions.
    3) Matching up students in classes who had complementary strengths and weaknesses.
    Not only did these tasks take less time, in my own experience, but they were also more meaningful to me because the sorting and matching tied directly into my instructional planning for the next day.
    I know you’re working hard this year to improve your skills in the area of FA. Take or leave this experience as you see fit. Looking forward to reading about your progress throughout the year.

  22. Jody

    AMEN, and you didn’t even mention the extra time spent on modifications for special education students in the science classroom!

  23. crazedmummy

    I have just gone to rubric-based self-assessment for students, because we have now gone to 2 teachers with 300 students. (Heck, it takes me the entire prep hour just to put in attendance!) I observe that working students are much harder on themselves than I would be. (Let’s leave aside the kids who do nothing and give themselves 100%, I cannot count them as students, really.)I grouped the work in sections, and they turn in a section at a time, but they fill in the rubric as they go. The nightly grading is gone, exchanged for a horrendous weekend every 2 weeks.
    I’ve been impressed so far.

  24. Jim Askew

    Bill,
    When teachers use formative assessment to evaluate their own teaching, they make the decisions about what and how to improve.
    Students must be given the freedom to do the same. If the teacher provides exemplars and added assignments as part of student formative assessment, the teacher is not really giving students an opportunity to make the decision about how good they want their work to be.
    Yes, the teacher should provide expectations for student self-assessment. But adding assignments to do it does eat up class time.
    I use an analytic self-evaluation rubric with two columns – one for student assessment and one for teacher assessment. To encourage honest assessment, if the student assessment isn’t within 10 point (plus or minus) of my assessment, the student loses 5 points on my recorded summative assignment grade.
    Sure, not all students will begin producing perfect papers and some will make poor quality decisions – but I can guarantee there will be a measurable improvement. The most time-consuming part for the teacher is constructing the rubric so students will evaluate what is important.
    All I can do is encourage students to use the rubric before, during, and after the assignment. It’s not perfect, but it realistically gives students control of assessment and it’s easier to stay on schedule.

  25. Brianna

    Bill,
    I’ve been following your blog for about a year now, and often feel that you are articulating my frustrations perfectly. Our English dept. has begun the process of a complete curriculum revamp, and this year begins the first new curriculum launch for all ninth grade students.
    As we implement, one of our most significant changes is in the area of assessment: using more formative and having more relevant summatives. Like you, I recognize that grading just a simple “ticket out the door” assignment for 50 students can take half a planning period. That doesn’t include of course, the written assignment for critical thinking that came in the day before and all the other assessments for the other preps I have (I teach two other classes in addition to the two sections of ninth grade students).
    I am interested in how this discussion unfolds and what you decide to do to take your life back. Being an effective, dedicated professional should not require any of us to neglect our family, friends or healthy lifestyle.

  26. Bill Ferriter

    Esmecomfort wrote:
    I have a question: if there were a robust PLC, where you were well
    supported professionally by your peers and admin, would the number of
    students be so critical?
    Im pretty convinced, Esme, based on my extensive work as a PLC author and consultant, that the number of students we serve will always be a deciding factor in how successful we are at formative assessment no matter how strong our PLCs are.
    Theres simply no way that collaborative work can simplify the clerical juggernaut that 120 kids creates. Heck, just writing grades in my gradebook and then posting them to our districts online website takes 30 minutes when youve got 120 kids.
    Could peers cut down on the crafting of remediation and enrichment exercises?
    Sure.
    But in the end, the heavy lifting—giving, grading, and recording mini-assessments—-is left to individual teachers, and that work is too time consuming to be done in the kind of timely way necessary for formative assessment to be meaningful.
    Any of this make sense?
    Bill

  27. Bill Ferriter

    Delta DC wrote:
    How are our assessment practices preparing learners to monitor their own progress and design their own interventions?
    This is a great question, Delta—and I agree that unless we can get our students to take some ownership over assessment and interventions, well struggle to do that work well on our own.
    That being said, I work with sixth graders—-so the self-assessment and intervention stuff that we do is all pretty simple stuff. Whats more, the students who need the most intervention and support are the least prepared to monitor and take action on their own behalf.
    I wonder if self-assessment and monitoring is a practice better suited to older kids?
    Just thinking,
    Bill

  28. Jason Robertson

    Thank you for addressing the practical side of teaching! Every Summer I have great ambitions about ways to improve my teaching. Every Fall I wake up to reality and find that only a small number of new ideas will really work, given the realities of teaching my 110 science students and my 58 computer students. No wonder I fall back into old habits of giving worksheets and stamping papers from time to time. I still aspire to improve my practice this year by collaborating with a colleague to standardize some assessments across our grade level so that we can compare the learning of our students.

  29. Esmecomfort

    Excellent post! I have a question: if there were a robust PLC, where you were well supported professionally by your peers and admin, would the number of students be so critical? Do you have an idea of what the number might be?

  30. Delta_dc

    Excellent points, Bill. Teaching and learning needs to be sustainable. Grant Wiggins (I think) once said that the juice has to be worth the squeeze. At the risk of carrying the analogy too far, I’d add that, from a teaching perspective, it isn’t worth it if the oranges (learners) don’t learn to squeeze themselves.
    How are our assessment practices preparing learners to monitor their own progress and design their own interventions? If the assessment and instruction is left solely in the hands of the teacher, then the practice is unsustainable on both sides of the relationship.
    Thanks for give us all something to think about.

  31. Bill Ivey

    I completely agree that focusing/rethinking the curriculum, integrating courses, and lowering student loads are three important ways to facilitate formative assessment. This is yet another example where private schools have an inestimable, and completely unfair, advantage over public schools. My school can and does make all these things happen (the math curriculum is the one sticky point), and it makes life so much more pleasant and learning so much deeper than it otherwise would be. With no MCAS looming on the other side, we are free to focus on process and on *becoming* who each of us is meant to be. I wish that for all schools.

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