Formative and Summative Assessment

Posted by Jenna Mittleman on August 3, 2014

Cartoon of king speaking to subjects from balcony: Try to see things from my point of view.
© Baloo, Jantoo.com. Used by permission.

A recent exercise in my Leading Edge Certification for the Administrator course gave me a chance to reflect on the topic of formative and summative assessment. I read an elementary school scenario in which Antonio Roberts, a teacher on the school’s staff, was eagerly awaiting a meeting with Mary Brown, his assistant principal, who had done an observation in his classroom the previous day. To me, the scenario provided a good example of how important it is to recognize the projected outcome of each participant.

There needs to be an intentional connection

Mrs. Brown seemed most interested in providing feedback to Antonio about his students’ progress following implementation of the new reading program. After the observation, Antonio was asked to reflect on student engagement in his class. He expressed his concerns about his ability to differentiate curriculum to best meet student needs. This is a classic example of what I personally experienced with several teachers this past year. There needs to be an intentional connection to the agreed upon standards in pre- and post-observation meetings. Historically, teacher evaluations at my site have not been entirely meaningful. Sadly, I’m able to say this as I was a teacher at my site for over 11 years. Teachers have typically chosen two CSTPs as a focus in the beginning of the year and the follow-through & accountability to monitor and assess hasn’t been fluid between administrators and teachers.

Making sure that the focus for California Standards for the Teaching Profession are selected in a meaningful way pending the teacher’s strengths and needed improvement is critical.  To help create this alignment, using a Google document would be beneficial in providing the expanded version of each standard which could potentially be highlighted in a Google doc as a reflection or post observation practice by the teacher. Considering the traditional methods of pen and paper reflections that my teachers currently use, this would be a giant step in the right direction. Allowing the evaluator and the evaluatee to share a living document that is specifically created to provide clarity about strengths and weaknesses would be a valuable tool.  This is the type of collaboration that must take place regularly throughout the year and feedback should be given in a timely manner that can be revisited regularly. In order to ensure significance of formative teacher assessments and summative evaluations…all assessments matter. Formal and informal evaluations are key elements in making employment decisions about teachers. The implementation of this process must be considered because the success of the students and the teachers greatly correspond.

The importance of collecting data

Last year, I used a tool on my iPad, “Classroom Walk-Through.”  This allowed me to provide teachers a quick snapshot providing feedback about lesson delivery, differentiation, resources, class environment and assessments. I loved that it allowed me to insert comments and email a PDF directly to the teacher and copy myself afterwards.  While I did find this to be a useful tool, I struggled with the time it took to complete as a minimum of 20–30 minutes was usually needed. Also, this was another email for the teacher and myself to receive and it required additional time to look up the CSTPs the teachers were focusing on to ensure alignment.

A more meaningful conversation with Antonio and Mrs. Brown could have occurred if student data was discussed.  Asking teachers to collect student data and create a portfolio to present is another idea. Also, using a web tool such as Mindomo to create a mind map can help teachers create a visual of how they can best meet the needs of their students and explicitly list the differentiation activities to be used in a given unit for specific students.

When discussing student achievement and characteristics of formative and summative assessment and teacher evaluations, the two words that surface for me are expectations and rigor.  If formative assessments with students are to be collaborative, while discussing strengths and setting goals, teacher evaluations should shadow this informal and conversational method.  Moving from poorly constructed expectations for students or teachers to clear and rigorous expectations helps transition from teacher centered to student entered and from administrator centered to teacher centered.  Furthermore, moving from general practice to specific practice is a must-do. Let’s practice as administrators what we expect of teachers.  Teachers, like students, should never be surprised of their summative evaluations if this process is completed properly.

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Jenna Mittleman

Jenna Mittleman is principal of Los Paseos Elementary School in Morgan Hill Unified School District.

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