In a standards-based environment, formative assessment is considered practice, is ungraded, and does not become part of a student’s overall score or provide official evidence of performance level. Items such as homework are considered formative assessment and should be designed to provide meaningful independent practice, reinforce, and extend learning. As such, homework should never be used to learn material for the first time. Formative assessment is a tool for learning and should never represent the final product of the learning process. In addition, it is often difficult to determine whether homework was completed by the student on his/her own, nor should there ever be any expectation that every piece of homework was completed independently by the student. It is perfectly acceptable that a student receive help on homework. Homework is practice and we rarely practice alone.
Consider the things you have learned to do in your life. You have learned to ride a bike, drive a car, play a sport, learned to cook, or learned specific parts of your job. How many of those things did you do well the first time? The second or third time? How many of those things did you learn without the help of anyone else? How many times did you fail and threaten to quit? What kept you going and growing? Our belief is that failure is not just going to happen, it is expected and can be used to help us grow. Now apply this to student learning. If we allow students to practice and fail, provide specific feedback to promote growth, and not assign failing grades to those practice attempts (that only serve to punish a student) we can create judgement-free educational environments in which all students can learn.
The term “assessment” is used to describe an activity in which a student will receive a score that is reported as a performance level descriptor and reported to ProgressBook and ultimately to a student’s report card. Also known as summative assessments, these activities occur after learning has taken place. Assessments serve to provide students with the opportunity to formally demonstrate what they have learned. Assessments can take many forms including, but not limited to, tests, quizzes, reports, essays, and projects. They also can take both written and verbal form. In short, a student can demonstrate their learning in many different ways and assessment should not be viewed as a one size fits all approach.
Although assessment takes place after practice and the learning process, not all students will be successful in demonstrating the highest level of performance (Met the Standard) on the first attempt. Since this is the goal for all students, any student who falls below this level will be allowed, and expected, to complete a reassessment. These students will have the opportunity to engage in further practice and receive additional instruction and support from their teacher. The student will then have another opportunity to demonstrate their learning through another assessment.