Formative Assessment in Daily Instruction

Formative Assessment in Daily Instruction

Meet students where they are and respond to their needs in real time.

In an ideal world, teachers and administrators have easy access to student data they can use every day to guide their instructional decisions. Whether it’s captured formally through formative and interim assessments or based on qualitative observations of their students, educators need information on how students are learning. Without these insights, educators are at risk of missing gaps in student understanding and leaving students behind.

Why formative assessment is essential

The goal of formative assessments is to monitor a student's academic journey in the moment, allowing for real-time feedback and adjustments to teaching strategies. Effective formative assessment is a tool that can empower both educators and students, fostering a more personalized and responsive learning environment. 

Formative assessments also allow students to practice showing what they know, preparing them for higher-stakes assessments that happen throughout the year. And ideally, with insight into student learning progress on standards, teachers and administrators have more visibility into how students might perform on interim and end-of-year assessments. Educators will also be able to tailor lesson plans to the areas where students need the most support and skills practice.

The challenges of scaling formative assessments

The formative assessment process can be chaotic. Teachers collect insights daily in their classrooms. But using so many types of pulse checks every day means teachers end up with data everywhere—in various online platforms, on paper slips, in raised hands, and from verbal responses. Formative assessment tools don't always provide insight into standards performance; they're often too narrow or focused exclusively on student engagement or skill development without also prioritizing academic alignment.

Another challenge with formative assessment data is that because it’s so varied and dispersed, it’s extremely difficult to view it through the lens of a comprehensive assessment strategy. Daily instruction and assessment must be inextricably linked; one helps you predict the other, and allows you to intervene when needed.

There’s typically no single place to see this data and easily pull insights, however. This means educators spend lots of time working alone and looking at isolated data instead of comparing insights across all types of formative assessments. Or even worse, they’re not using any data at all.

The result? It’s hard for teachers and administrators to truly understand what students know. Without these insights, administrators can’t make informed decisions on where to invest, what professional development to provide, and what curricular initiatives to set. If it’s difficult for teachers to see the full picture of how students are performing in the moment and across classrooms, they’re only able to differentiate for students who are clearly struggling or those who ask for help. Teachers and administrators must be able to bridge the gap.

How to bridge the gap between your assessment strategy and daily instruction

When building your assessment strategy, there are two major components to consider: classroom assessments and end-of-year assessments (e.g. state assessments). 

The majority of assessments happen in the classroom throughout the year. These classroom assessments range from formative assessments to interim or benchmark assessments. They’re closely aligned with learning goals. Interim or benchmark assessments are used by departments, schools, or districts to measure student learning progress against specific learning outcomes and provide a school or district visibility into the progress of all students against those desired outcomes. 

A successful assessment strategy gathers data to drive instructional decisions and resource allocation, ultimately supporting progress on and providing visibility towards learning goals and state standards. Data is critically important, but not all data is created equal. And it has to be actionable, timely, and easy to access to make an impact on student learning.

Teachers and administrators often have to wait for interim assessment results, and by the time those arrive, the data is weeks—if not months—old. This data is only good for providing insight into end-of-year performance and might fail to properly identify students who need help or extra assistance.

There’s a better way to connect the dots between interim assessment and the daily work educators do to check for student understanding. To really drive classroom learning, your assessment strategy should include the insights gained from formative assessments in addition to interim assessments and end-of-year assessments. More frequent assessments mean more opportunities for intervention and scaffolding if students aren’t pacing to standards achievement. Once teachers can identify where students are struggling, they can provide individual or group practice and support to ensure students develop the skills they need for standards mastery.

Having a single tool to support a variety of assessment strategies and use cases, including daily formative assessments, means teachers and administrators alike will be able to identify trends and ensure that the instruction happening in the classroom is driving measurable assessment gains and learning outcomes. Regular insights make it easier for them to track and identify specific skills that need to be retaught or prioritized.

Formative assessments with Newsela

A continuous feedback loop is an implicit component of daily instruction. When your district is considering different tools to build knowledge or practice skills, you should always make sure the products have ways for teachers to assess and immediately get actionable data about student understanding and progress. Our suite of evidence-based products provides a variety of engaging formative assessments and real-time results to incorporate that feedback loop into a holistic assessment strategy and drive student progress.

Formative assessment in daily instruction

Across all of our products, teachers can use formative assessments as checks for understanding at the beginning, middle, or end of their lessons to gauge whether students are ready to move on and where students need extra support.

Our daily instruction and assessment product, Formative by Newsela, seamlessly connects the insights teachers and administrators need to support student learning in every subject, including math and world languages.

Formative provides educators with a range of benefits for daily instruction, including:

  • 20+ activity types to keep students engaged and offer a variety of ways to show knowledge.

  • Tools for creating lesson-ready presentations and delivering formative assessments in teacher-paced mode alongside slides, videos, passages, and more.

  • Real-time student insights from daily activities like bell ringers and exit tickets to power informed instruction.

  • Standards tagging and overview reports to help identify opportunities for improvement or reteaching.

  • Written, audio, video, or visual formative feedback to ensure every student gets rich and targeted in-the-moment support.

  • Video enhancement features that allow teachers to easily embed formative assessments at timestamped moments in videos.

  • Student practice activities that allow students to practice and learn independently, with teacher visibility into their progress.

  • Collaborative and shareable formatives so teachers can work with anyone in their district, and mark any formative as common assessment to ensure more consistent data collection across classrooms.

Our knowledge- and skill-building products offer a way to combine world-class content with formative assessment, which allows you to practice skills without ever sacrificing student engagement. Every text in Newsela ELA, Newsela Social Studies, and Newsela Science offers a variety of formative assessments that provide immediate visibility into student progress, including:

  • Standards-aligned quizzes that help students practice showing their knowledge while providing in-the-moment insights to teachers on student learning progress.

  • Polls to activate prior knowledge and engage students at the start of a lesson.

  • Writing prompts to encourage students to dive deeper into the texts and practice critical thinking skills.

  • Customizable activities that allow you to adjust based on your goals, teaching style, and student needs. Select from a range of question types to show students what they’ll see on summative and state tests.

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Connecting formative assessment to your district assessment strategy

A tool that spans the spectrum of formative assessment to interim assessment ensures that you’re collecting frequent, ongoing data to better understand student performance on standards throughout the entire school year. 

When you house all student performance data in one easy-to-use platform, it encourages teachers and administrators to identify gaps in understanding and provide targeted support where it’s needed, in the moment. Incorporating this data into a broader common assessment strategy ensures that educators can collaborate and move student learning forward.

Learn how Formative by Newsela supports common assessments

How school districts are leveraging these products in their assessment strategies

How JS Morton empowered teachers with authentic common assessments and real-time results

JS Morton High School District 201 in Illinois has a large population of current and former English learners. Teachers needed a flexible, engaging platform to formatively assess students through more inclusive methods that would meet students—who come with a variety of learning needs and preferences—where they are. The district leveraged Formative’s 20+ activity types, including the audio response feature, to provide students with more ways to show their knowledge.

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How Dorchester School District 02 built a common assessment strategy to increase student achievement

The team at Dorchester School District 02—a large K-12 district outside of Charleston, South Carolina—was focused on establishing a data-driven environment that enabled teacher collaboration and student achievement. They used real-time formative assessment data from Formative at the classroom, department, and district levels to inform instructional strategies. Collaboration and real-time intervention drove an increase in overall student achievement.

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Literacy gains from weekly Newsela ELA use: A quasi-experimental evaluation of content-rich instruction

Dexter Community Schools in Michigan used regular formative assessments to drive reading outcomes. An ESSA Tier II study examined literacy skill growth of elementary students in the district. Researchers compared students who used Newsela ELA texts and quizzes weekly to a control group and found 4th-grade Newsela users achieved about three additional months of literacy skill growth compared to their non-Newsela peers. Newsela classes also read 44% more nonfiction texts than comparison classes.

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Formative Assessment 101

Need a refresher on some of the key topics surrounding formative assessment? Browse the questions below to get the answers you need.

Learn more about how Formative powers daily instruction and assessment through real-time insights and flexible tools.

Formative by Newsela

Power a range of instruction and assessment needs for everything from in-class checks for understanding to district-level assessments.

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Newsela ELA

Put knowledge and relevant, real-world content at the center of skills practice to make literacy outcomes a reality for every learner.

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Newsela Social Studies

Easy access to all the course-aligned sources, diverse perspectives, and activities you need for engaging lessons to prepare the next generation of citizens.

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Newsela Science

Use authentic, accessible content and activities that get students reading, writing, and thinking like scientists.

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