Formative Assessment - Challenge Map

Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment

The Challenge

At the classroom level, many teachers are working to implement assessments to gauge student learning in real-time, and to help students set and monitor their own learning goals using data. Some aspire to embed assessment into everyday learning, through student-driven projects and performance tasks, and use instruments like rubrics to measure learning and development of skills beyond academic content knowledge; others are seeking ways to use portfolios to collect ongoing evidence of student learning; yet others are building creative approaches to engage students in tracking their own progress. Data collected through the use of digital learning products can provide valuable insights, especially when combined with other data sets. Formative assessment can help educators make evidence-based decisions to improve student learning, but they need support to implement formative assessment broadly.

Challenge Stats


Respondents reported this challenge is urgent


Respondents reported their schools or districts have made progress on this challenge

Ideas from the Field

  • Districts are thinking deeply about what formative assessment really means, and considering how teachers and students can demonstrate progress in a variety of ways. This involves considering where formative assessment creates barriers - do teachers know what to do with the data they collect? Are we limiting our ability to understand student progress by only utilizing certain types of assessments?
  • Though formative assessment is not a new idea, districts continue to implement new types of formative assessment aligned with changing accountability standards, district goals, or new curricula. One district is using a validated formative assessment for reading four times a year, which gives teachers a real-time indication of student progress, mastery, and areas for growth. Teachers are able to provide the necessary intervention for those particular areas where students are struggling, and to provide an accelerated approach for students who are speedily mastering content.
  • Others are using apps and tools for math, science, and reading to provide students with immediate feedback on their gaps and opportunities for improvement. Handing ownership of data over to students increases their engagement with their learning and progress.

In the Words of District Staff

The lack of engagement from many of my students as a result of being quarantined for months makes it impossible for me to assess what they really know and have learned, as there is no motivation to try.
Middle school teacher
Spring 2020

“We've really embraced the idea of giving staff the ability to be agile in their assessment practices. So when it's time to formatively or summatively assess students, what they know and understand, just give them choice and flexibility. If that's through [maker learning], walk into the maker area and let them demonstrate … whatever those approaches may be, we want their practices to be agile versus traditional.”

“We're focused on one problem of practice — this idea of formative assessment...It really is around: can we identify the learning intentions in the classroom, and are we able to elicit evidence that those learning intentions are being understood? ...It's around learning intentions and success criteria that are observable in the classroom. Again, because we're using this new language when it comes to this idea of learning intentions, we felt like it's a problem of practice across the district that's going to require us to all learn together what that looks like.”


Revising the Definition of Formative Assessment - From CCSSO, this resource provides an overview of the attributes of effective formative assessment and emphasizes new areas emerging from current research, theory and practice.

Connecting Formative Assessment Research to Practice: An Introductory Guide for Educators - This Learning Point brief defines formative assessment, examines the research, and outlines the components needed to develop a high-quality, research-based formative assessment plan in a state, district, or school.

Raising the BAR: Becoming Assessment Ready Toolkit - From CoSN, an online assessment report and planning tool to help districts make a successful online transition.

Sign Up For Updates! Email icon

Sign up for updates!