101_1544.JPGMy name is Amber Cross and I teach high school math at Dansville High School. I first heard the terms “formative and summative assessment” three years ago when I attended an assessment conference through the ISD. In this conference, Carole Commodore laid out the distinct differences between the two types of assessment and how important introducing and applying these assessments can be in furthering mastery of subject material. She challenged a lot of my previous thinking with probing questions. Although I felt that was currently using these types of assessments, I had not yet made the distinction in my class. It took that whole year of learning about formative and summative assessment for me to be fully convinced that making the philosophical switch was going to be worth my time and actually was going to be much better for my students.

I took another summer and half a year to get ready with procedures, documents and planning for implementation. I rolled it out two years ago with a test group that had already done a half year with my previous assessment methods. The results were amazing and have only gotten better. Students that were previously discouraged and not willing to risk learning again because they had failed so often were passing…not because of a dramatic shift in my teaching ability, but because of the shift in assessment. This shift from “assessment OF learning” to “assessment FOR learning” gave these students hope and made them willing to try again and again until they finally “got it.”
Since that time, formative assessment has become an integral part of my daily classroom management and has revolutionized my teaching. I use many different forms of formative assessment to track my students’ learning through standards (HSCEs) and to make decisions about how to proceed with a class on a day to day basis.
I have been rejuvenated by this change and look forward to tweaking and reworking how I use these assessments in the future. My students have benefited from the change as well which is evident by the surveys I give at the end of the year, as well as the average final grades at the end of a semester, the amount and depth of material I am now able to cover, and conversations I have had with students. I am able to push students into deep learning because they are more willing to risk failure because they understand that everything I assign is to help them LEARN – that the goal of everything I give, go over and assess them on is that they understand, demonstrate and LEARN the standards.
This process was not a fast one for me – took almost two years for me to finally make the switch. This process was not an easy one for me – there were many hurdles I had to go over because I was “bucking” the system that I had gone through and that most people have seen as education. This process was not a time saver at first – I had to do many hours of prep work before making the switch and had to use several class periods to train my students in the switch. However, now that I'm on the other side of it (the big switch), I can say I would NEVER go back to the way I used to use assessment in my classroom. I would also say that the way I did it before was not “bad”…I was doing the best with what I knew. Now I know and have experienced a better way and for the first time feel confident that the grades I give at the end of a semester are a true reflection of what a particular student knows about the subject.
I implore you to read and study formative assessment and try it – it will work! There are many questions and issues that will need to be worked through, but keep working on it and bounce ideas off your colleagues and the other students in this class. Good luck in your venture!

See more of Amber's comments on various pages in this wiki. Use the navigation table to the left to jump to each page.