Consensus is developing within the United States around an operational definition of formative assessment practices which are effective in improving student learning. While there is a significant amount of research demonstrating the value of formative assessment practices in the classroom, there are limited examples in the United States describing the paths that states and districts can take to influence teachers’ use of these practices. The New York Formative Assessment Project was developed to make a contribution to the field by supporting and documenting the processes a state and district followed as they moved from research to practice.
In the spring of 2007, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) initiated the New York Formative Assessment Project, in collaboration with the AACC, the NYCC, and the Syracuse City School District, to support the implementation of classroom formative assessment in mathematics. This project was seen as the first step in establishing a statewide formative assessment approach that could be adopted by other districts throughout New York State to achieve progress toward the Regents’ goals of improving student performance and closing the achievement gap.
A key feature of the New York Formative Assessment Project was the availability of support from a national student assessment expert, Margaret Heritage, who was assigned to the project from the Assessment and Accountability Content Center. In addition, Syracuse received onsite technical assistance from a team of school improvement and mathematics experts from the New York Comprehensive Center.
Over a two-year period, the four partners collaborated to implement formative assessment practices in ten Syracuse City School District elementary schools. The partnership focused on two primary district-level objectives. First, the partnership worked with the Syracuse district leadership team to create a district framework for assessment and data use. Second, the partnership focused on building the capacity of school leaders and mathematics coaches to implement the framework, and in particular classroom formative assessment practices, in schools and classrooms.
During the two years of the Project’s district implementation, three primary approaches were used to build district capacity to implement classroom formative assessment practices.
- District leaders reviewed formative assessment research to establish a common definition of formative assessment and a shared understanding of the value of formative assessment.
- Mathematics coaches were taught to apply a common set of data-use protocols to help administrators and teachers to analyze annual state assessment and district interim assessment data.
- Mathematics coaches participated in a turn-key training model in which they learned about formative assessment research and practice. Coaches used this information to develop and implement a range of strategies to build the capacity of teacher teams to implement classroom formative assessment practices in mathematics.
During the two year implementation, mathematics coaches worked with teachers to implement five “attributes” of formative assessment as outlined in the CCSSO definition. The Project’s approach and strategies for district and school-level professional development are described on the site’s District Implementation pages.
As the ultimate goal of the New York Formative Assessment Project was to build NYSED’s capacity to support districts using formative assessment, significant work took place with NYSED staff to participate in and learn from the Project. NYCC technical assistance providers facilitated meetings of the NYSED Formative Assessment work group to explore and develop statewide policies to support district use of classroom formative assessment. The Project’s approach and strategies for state-level capacity building are described on the site’s State Implementation pages.
- NYCC Assessment Team members facilitated NY State Education Department Formative Assessment Work Group meetings to develop a shared understanding of formative assessment and to clarify the state’s role in district formative assessment implementation. Through their Race to the Top application and strategic planning process, NY State has developed policy and recommendations for statewide support of formative assessment implementation.
- The project offered two years of professional development to Syracuse City School District leaders and mathematics coaches on formative assessment practices, who in turn worked with teachers to implement formative assessment in the classroom.
- Preliminary project evaluation results indicate changes in classroom and district practices including implementation of new classroom coaching models, increased teacher comfort with analysis of student data, increased use of classroom formative assessment strategies, and overall improvements in teacher content knowledge in mathematics.
- Project partners worked together to develop presentation materials and identify readings to communicate key messages about best practices in formative assessment to state and district staff.