Integrating Theory and Practice
Once the New York State Education Department developed agreement on a common definition of formative assessment, it was critical for different offices within the state to engage with the project district so that they could learn about the application in the classroom. To do this, Syracuse leaders and coaches presented to state education department staff, to state educational support groups, and invited state personnel to the district to observe classroom formative assessment practices. Within NYSED, the Formative Assessment Work Group engaged individuals from numerous departments in reflective dialogue about formative assessment. Each opportunity that NYSED staff had to see and hear about classroom level implementation helped staff to integrate theory and practice, and renewed policy and practice discussions within the state education department. Similarly, the state engaged key stakeholder groups in order to clarify ways that different New York educational groups could support the formative assessment work, and discussed strategies for statewide implementation of classroom formative assessment.
- New York Formative Assessment Project, from Research to Practice (An NYSED internal working paper describing a state’s role to support formative assessment)
- Sample presentation agendas to key NY Educational Stakeholder groups, December 2008-May 2009
- Agenda for Syracuse site visits, May 2009
- Building State Capacity in Formative Assessment (Presentation at CCSSO Annual Assessment Conference)
- Having a district pilot where state education personnel could observe the development and implementation of formative assessment practices greatly supported the learning of state staff members. Onsite visits and discussions with district staff brought energy, motivation and commitment to state-level staff and, in each case, gave momentum to move the formative assessment initiative forward.
- Formative assessment crosses multiple educational disciplines such as assessment, teacher preparation, special education, curriculum/standards, English language learners, and teacher quality. Involving representatives from these disciplines in state-level formative assessment planning supports deeper engagement and more inclusive policy recommendations.
- In order to move from theory to practice, professional development needs to communicate the research, theoretical knowledge, and identify images or “pictures of practice” that exemplify the use of formative assessment strategies in the classroom.
- Including national experts in state level discussions supports policy development that is more closely aligned with the research.
- At the state level, it is critical to work towards an understanding of how formative assessment practices relate to state standards and state assessment programs. In a comprehensive assessment model, all assessments, from classroom to state level assessments, are aligned to the standards. States need to explore the role standards and assessment policy can play to support an aligned system which includes formative assessment practices.
- State departments of education need to build in the time for state education staff to observe at the classroom level. Engage new personnel in the work to visit onsite and see formative assessment practices.
- Videos of classroom formative assessment illustrate how this work is more than “just good teaching” and promote dialogue about the resources, training and support necessary to implement formative assessment.