Sonoma County Office of Education

Technology for Learners

Formative Assessment: Key Strategy for CCSS Success

Author: Rick Phelan
Published: 10.07.14

KeysThis is a noteworthy year for assessment in California K-12 public schools. All schools with students in grades 3-8 and 11 will begin using computer-based assessments from the Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC). The SBAC assessments will gauge student progress toward college and career readiness.

Along with its summative assessments, SBAC is offering formative assessment materials. Educators are encouraged to use formative assessments to check student understanding at key learning junctures. Teachers will gain important information about how their students are progressing and exactly what their students are learning. With this information in hand, they can make adjustments to learning activities, instructional materials, and how classroom time is used with the aim of ensuring the success of all students.

Formative assessment may be a new idea for some educators. In contrast to traditional assessments, formative assessments emphasize how students receive concepts and ideas rather than how teachers deliver information. When implemented effectively, formative assessment practices can improve student learning and help students acquire important 21st century skills.

Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction. It is integrated into instruction and takes place as ideas and concepts are developing within a lesson or unit. As such, it provides important feedback for both teachers and students:

  • Teachers obtain information that helps them know how to adjust instruction to advance student learning.
  • Students have opportunities to gauge their own learning, ask questions, and improve their understanding.

Because formative assessment may be a new idea for teachers, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has established a Digital Library to help increase educator skill repertories in this area. Teachers can obtain Digital Library accounts through their district testing coordinator and access hundreds of resources arranged by grade and content area. Videos are available to help practitioners see effective examples of formative assessment.

Learn More on December 4

To further assist educators in the development of formative assessment practice, SCOE invites teachers and administrators to a full-day workshop on December 4 from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Margaret Heritage, an internationally recognized expert on assessment who wrote the assessment section of California's ELA/ELD Framework (adopted 2014) and has worked at UCLA and WestEd, will be the guest speaker. Her presentation will help teachers and their students engage in formative assessment with practical ideas, video scenarios, and materials to support day-to-day implementation.

Read more about formative assessment in this two-page article by Margaret Heritage, Formative Assessment: An Enabler of Learning.


Blog: Technology for Learners