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, 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.


Classroom Walkthrough Google Style

Posted by Michael Graham on February 4, 2014

Cartoon person walking with Google Classroom walkthroughs (CWT) give administrators data. This data is important for providing relevant professional development to the teaching staff as well as a good way to be involved more in the classroom. Since we have implemented CWTs we have seen gains, but the data was slow and cumbersome to disaggregate. Paper forms had been the norm, but at the beginning of this year we implemented a Google Form for CWTs. The transition has been spectacular. The data is coming in faster and in real time. I am able to share it with the assistant superintendent and superintendent easily and that gives me justification on how to spend the precious professional development dollars.

 The use of a Google Form for CWTs is not for building administrators who “Cant handle the truth.” The results are live and in your face. As we developed our CWT instrument we thought that we would shine in many areas. The form does not lie. Be prepared to see the truth in the data.

For example checkout some of our data below.

When the data comes back to the spreadsheet Google will automatically create graphs. Follow the steps below to access the Summary of Responses.

  1. Open the associated spreadsheet that collects the form data
  2. Click Form
  3. Click Summary of Responses

As you can tell we need some work on technology integration. It is a slow process for my new school but we are on the right track. I am a new assistant principal that prides myself on my technology integration chops. The data does not lie. I am not having as much impact as I should.

Truth alert! Our English Language Arts teachers have the highest percentage of master’s degrees and national board certification. As administrators we tend to visit the good teachers more to reaffirm our great impact on our teachers as the instructional leader.

In the link below I have shared our CWT instrument with you. Please take some time to evaluate it and modify as necessary. I have outlined some steps so anyone with a Google Account either through a school managed domain ( or a Google managed ( domain can access.

  1. Click the link here to open the form.
  2. Click on File, then on Make a Copy.
  3. The form is yours to modify!

To find out more about Google Forms and how to use them in the classroom, read my book, Google Apps Meets Common Core published by Corwin.  Also, check out Survey Templates Ready to Administer Using Google Forms right here on!


Wait, wait! Don’t evaluate me.

Posted by James Scoolis on October 5, 2013

Man holding up hands, I have been evaluating teachers for 21 years, all the way back to a time when I was required to assess a teacher’s hygiene and appearance as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”  Thankfully, we have progressed as a profession.

Charlotte Danielson’s work that synthesized research on effective teaching and put it all together in a rubric form was published in 1996.  It took several years for her work to make its official way to San Luis Obispo, California, where I work as an elementary principal.  I know that for years, many administrators here were unofficially using her work to evaluate the work of teachers.  Eventually, the district made the leap to accept the four domains (planning, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities) and 32 components.  Just two years ago, we abandoned “satisfactory/unsatisfactory” ratings in favor of “unsatisfactory, basic, proficient and distinguished.”

Last year was our pilot year for collecting data/evidence of teachers’ work as it related to specific components and then scoring with the four level rubric.   Data collection was all done by analog scripting and note-taking.  When it came time for us administrators to write up our evaluations, we were faced with collating and reviewing piles of handwritten feedback cards and two-column legal pad notes.  Hearing the complaints from administrators on increased workload and time commitment, our district purchased a software solution called TeachScape.

Seven uninterrupted hours?

There are three components to this software.  One is a series of videos of teachers teaching with commentaries on how the video evidence relates to the rubric. All of us were required to watch the videos and then pass the assessment piece at the end.  What I didn’t know was that the assessment piece itself requires seven hours of uninterrupted time!  I arrived at this point in the training module a few days before school started.   Well, it’s a month later and somehow those seven uninterrupted hours have eluded me.  Nonetheless, having made it through all the videos, and given my previous experience with the framework, I feel qualified and calibrated at this time.

The second component is a digital communication system for sharing data and observational notes with teachers. Implementation glitches abound.  First of all, it’s tough when the software is not intuitively designed.  You know what I mean?  (Apparently Apple engineers were involved elsewhere when this product was designed.) To their credit, the TeachScape folks are attentive and helpful.  They actually answer the helpline when you call and speak understandable English! But there are terminology problems.  What I call a walk-through is, to TeachScape, apparently something much more structured.  And I am just now trying to figure out why I would have to “schedule” an informal observation—wouldn’t that make it formal’?

Missing modules?

In addition, it seems our district hasn’t purchased all the right modules that allow us to input data. I don’t want to start the arduous process of entering all my handwritten notes and observations in one place and then, at the end of the year, find there are two different systems to collate. These issues may be solved by our new personnel director, who has taken over as the single point of contact for getting questions and glitches addressed.  She calls the helpline on our behalf, and she is learning the system along with us.

TeachScape’s third component?  At this point, I do not know exactly what it does.  Heck, I’m still looking high and low for those seven uninterrupted hours.

How will this all end up? Who will save us?  Will we be saved?  Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Evaluate Me!”  Coming soon!


Five “Smart” Tech Skills

Posted by Jack Jarvis on December 28, 2011

During the last decade, schools received unprecedented funding through both federal and state initiatives.  For example, in California, we had Immediate Intervention for Underperforming Schools and the High Priority Schools Grant Program.  Together, these two programs alone pumped millions of dollars into California Schools, and many schools tapped these funds to purchase technology in the form of laptops, projectors and “smart” technology.  Projectors and speaker systems were mounted in classroom ceilings and control panels patched into walls.  The “modern classroom” was born—for the moment.

But as we look back almost a decade, what do we have in classroom technology? And what should we do next?

Well, what we have is a lot of teachers equipped with the ability to present content with their laptops.  We have content available in many places.  And we have a majority of teachers who have expertise in one area: using an interactive whiteboard as an overhead projector.

Coming from a district of over 70,000, I have seen numerous elementary classrooms where teachers teach with their laptops.  While there are certainly some gems among the rocks, most teachers I observe use slideshows they download from the web or those created by central office instructional personnel.  While this is a vast improvement over 2001 and overhead transparencies, it’s not the most effective use of the technology. In fact, one could argue downloading these ready-made materials has made teachers less involved in the cognitive planning of their instruction.  (I can’t tell you how many times I heard a teacher saying, “Oops, wasn’t expecting that, ha, ha” when an unanticipated slide pops up.)

What do we do to address this, to enhance the instructional experience for our students, to tap into their world of smart phones and iPads?  What we didn’t do in the last decade!
Train the teachers in the right tools.  I’m sorry, but SmartBoard is not it.

All teachers should be trained in and evaluated on their use of technology to teach.  Just projecting images with an interactive whiteboard or throwing up a presentation they didn’t create should not be deemed proficient.  Instead, we should see a movement towards these basic skills:

  1. Creating and manipulating graphical objects.
  2. Creating and manipulating text boxes.
  3. Using animation, especially the path animation in PowerPoint.
  4. Creating hyperlinks from PowerPoint to websites that support the learning.
  5. Accessing/inserting pictures and video into lesson materials.

Why these five?  Because if you are fluent in them, you can create almost any type of presentation. These five skills would give teachers a cornucopia of strategies that would grab student attention and make content more understandable.  Imagine the difference between reading a core selection with your class while linking in and out of websites connected to the subject.  Imagine creating live moving animations to stimulate student thinking about mundane number sense concepts.  Becoming proficient in these tools should be spelled out in the credentialing process more exactly, and should be the focus point for professional development it should have been back when all that equipment was purchased.


Hey kids, what do you think of your teacher?

Posted by Michael Simkins on August 31, 2010

Earlier this month, the California Legislature passed a bill (SB 1422) that “authorizes the student government of a high  school to establish a committee to develop a survey to solicit student opinions of different class aspects and  teacher effectiveness, and establishes requirements for the  administration and results of the survey.”

Now, like any bill, this one has its critics.  Are students mature enough and do they have sufficient experience and emotional detachment to make valid judgments of their teachers?  Will they use the evaluation process as a way to “extort” a higher grade from a teacher in exchange for not being slammed as an incompetent jerk?  Will the bill and its various requirements actually retard efforts by forward thinking teachers, districts and schools that have already developed and implemented surveys for students to provide feedback to their teachers?

Those questions have yet to be answered.  In the meantime, there is no reason we can’t start thinking about how technology might help us should we, in concert with our student government, want to move forward.

Yes, of course, some meetings would be in order.  After all, we all spend a good part of our day on the same physical campus.  Nonetheless, the faculty, administration and students are occupied much of the day in separate activities and separate spaces.  So the committee working on this task might find it very useful to record meeting notes and develop drafts of a questionnaire using an online tool such as Google Docs.  These let committee members add their 2 cents whenever its convenient for them.  And anything they write is immediately available to the group.  Plus, you don’t have to deal with the confusion of several versions being exchanged among committee members and trying to make sure someone has the actual, final, complete version.

Once the developers agree to the questions that will be asked and the response scales, these can be easily deployed via simple online tools such as a Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, or Qualtrics.

Whether or not you think it’s a great idea that high school students evaluate the effectiveness of their teachers, if you live in California it’s now a fact with which you’ve got to deal.  Check out these technology tools; they can really facilitate the process!