Unpacking and Deconstructing the Standards

By | Assessment, Instructional Improvement Systems | No Comments

unpacking-standardsStandards are often written as complex, overarching statements that can be interpreted many different ways. In order to teach to the standards effectively and gather accurate data, it’s important for teachers to break the standards apart to form a deeper understanding. Working to unpack the standards can be a fun and meaningful process.

It is important for teachers to collaborate with each other during the unpacking process and discuss how to challenge students to make sure they have met the expectations of the standards.¹

Teacher Collaboration

Deconstructing the standards collaboratively builds the capacity of all teachers involved. Not only does the process increase the ability of teachers to teach a standard effectively, but it also increases their ability to accurately assess a standard. Because each teacher brings his or her understanding of the strand or standard to the discussion, these rich conversations serve to deepen the comprehension of the standard for all teachers.

Furthermore, the process by which teachers create a shared understanding of desired learning outcomes for standards and design assessment items to measure them is a near-perfect example of meaningful, job-embedded, professional learning.

Develop Learning Targets Based on Standards

By developing learning targets that are accurately derived from standards, teachers will have a better understanding of what to teach so they can plan instruction that appropriately addresses the knowledge and skills of the standards.² In addition to identifying and understanding learning targets, deconstructing standards also helps teachers to identify and understand the level of cognitive complexity the standards demand.

Whether teachers use Bloom’s Taxonomy or Webb’s Depth of Knowledge to assign levels of cognitive complexity to assessment items, teachers need to have a shared and thorough understanding of how that level informs how content is taught and assessed. Much of the research on rigor provides teachers with strategies and practices to ensure that standards are taught at their intended level of cognitive complexity.


Do you have any other ways to unpack standards? Share your strategies with us in the comments below!

¹ (Tobiason, Chang, Heritage, & Jones, 2014
² (Tobiason et al., 2014)

16 Guidelines for Writing High-Quality Assessment Items

By | Formative Assessment | No Comments


Why Does Writing High-Quality Items Matter?

Assessment is an aspect of the rigorous formative assessment cycle that requires precision to be effective. The items, which make up an assessment, are the foundation upon which teachers build inferences about student understanding. Properly written items produce accurate data about student comprehension that guide teachers to make sound instructional decisions to sustain and improve student learning. In addition to providing evidence about the concepts students have difficulty understanding, well-written assessments effectively help teachers evaluate the next steps they should take in the instructional process.*

Drafting Good Assessment Items

There are general guidelines for constructing high-quality items that improve the overall ability of the item to measure what it is intended to measure and consistently gather accurate results. The desired data produced by an item is a crucial factor influencing the selection of item type and format. The recommendations below are accepted guidelines to assist item writers in their quest to create high-quality items. In addition to these guidelines, standardized state-assessment providers typically have assessment-design rules primarily related to item formatting that are unique to their tests.

16 Guidelines for Writing High-Quality Items:

  1. Provide Clear Directions
    The student should know what to do to successfully answer the item. One of the first steps teachers should undertake when reviewing items is to ensure that each item has clear directions that explicitly state what students are expected to do. Clear directions increase item fairness and validity.¹
  2. Assess a Single Idea or Problem
    If an item is written asking more than one question, it is difficult or impossible for the teacher to determine from the results to which question the student was responding.
  3. Include Readable Graphics
    In order to produce intended results, all graphical images must be clear, uncluttered with unnecessary information, and readable. When reviewing the technology-enhanced components of the items, it is important for teachers to ensure that the media and graphics are essential for answering the item.²
  4. Use Clear and Precise Language
    Words that are not pertinent to the item should be eliminated.
  5. Are not Interdependent
    Items should not provide clues or answers in the item stem or distracters to other items on the assessment.
  6. Do not Use Difficult or Uncommon Names
    Students can be distracted by the spelling or pronunciation of uncommon names. Names that represent other things, such as April or Forest, can also reduce the reliability of an item.
  7. Avoid Redundancy in the Distracters
    Item writers should include words in the stem that would otherwise be repeated for each response option.
  8. Use as Little Punctuation as Possible
    Specifically, contractions are often misunderstood and should be eliminated.
  9. Contain New Language
    Avoid using phrases or words taken directly from standards, lectures, or studied text. This practice increases the level of cognitive complexity of the item and engages in higher-order thinking.
  10. Have the Blank at the End of a Statement
    Using this method allows students to focus on the question rather than figuring out how to fit the appropriate distracter into the statement.
  11. Contain Distracters that are Grammatically Consistent with the Question Stem
    Checking each distracter to ensure that it is grammatically correct when connected to the item stem avoids clueing students to the correct option.
  12. Employ the Third Person
    When items use “you,” students tend to personalize their response and choose the distracter that represents their opinion or idea versus what the item is asking.
  13. Ensure Distracters are Equally Attractive Answer Choices
    Distracters should be plausible and represent common student misconceptions or misunderstandings.³
  14. Contain Distracters that are Equivalent in Length, Style, and Structure
    This is especially true when distracter choices continue on to the second line of text. Align distracters so that they are all one line of text or all two lines of text.
  15. Avoid Using “All of the Above” or “None of the Above” as Distracters
    Students gravitate toward choosing these selections regardless of the correct distracter choice.
  16. Avoid Using Absolute Terminology
    Some students tend to focus on finding exceptions to these statements including these terms rather than on answering the question.

If you want to expand on these strategies, I highly recommend downloading our free eBook about writing high-quality assessment items so that you can begin reaping the benefits from this practice.

Do you have any other strategies you use to write high-quality assessment items? We’d love to hear about them, please share in the comments below!

* (Turner, 2014)
¹ (Lakin, 2014)
² (Scalise & Gifford, 2006)
³ (Downing & Haladyna, 2006; Haladyna et al., 2010)

The Strong Correlation between Interactive Achievement’s SGAs and SOL Results

By | Student Growth Assessments | No Comments

Correlation-between-Interactive-Achievement’s-SGA- and-SOL-Results
Interactive Achievement is excited to release a new report and white paper from Advanced Education Measurement (AEM) that demonstrates the correlations between Interactive Achievement’s Virginia Student Growth Assessments (SGAs) and the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments taken at the end of the semester or school year.

The Virginia SOLs are extremely important for the divisions as they evaluate student achievement and success. Educators need reliable information on the progress of students in the months leading up to the SOL before they actually sit for the assessments. Interactive Achievement offers the SGAs for Math, Reading, History, and Science and recommends schools administer them twice; once in the fall and once in the spring to identify student strengths as well as gaps in student knowledge.

Recently, Interactive Achievement contracted with AEM to better understand the connection between SOLs and the corresponding SGAs. AEM first distributed its full results through a white paper available from AEM, An Analysis of the Relationship between Interactive Achievement’s Student Growth Assessments to Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments in the 2013-14 School Year. To facilitate the understanding of the white paper, in partnership with AEM, Interactive Achievement is releasing a report that summarizes the critical findings of the white paper and provides a ready-to-use guide for educators to use the SGAs as a guide to understanding likely student performance on the SOL.

The key findings are:

  • IA SGA results are highly correlated with Virginia SOL results and predict SOL performance extremely accurately.
  • The report includes a chart that educators can use to gauge the likelihood that individual students will pass the SOL based on their IA SGA results.

We’ve compiled our findings into a simple report and a detailed, data-rich whitepaper for you to explore. Check them out here or access it with the download button below.


The Importance of Writing Quality Items in Assessment

By | Assessment, Formative Assessment, In the Classroom | No Comments

writing quality items

The Importance of Writing Quality Items

Assessment is an aspect of the rigorous formative assessment cycle that requires precision to be effective.  The items, which constitute an assessment, are the foundation upon which teachers build inferences about student understanding.  Properly written items produce accurate data about student comprehension that guide teachers to make sound instructional decisions to sustain and improve student learning.  In addition to providing evidence about the concepts students have difficulty understanding, well-written assessments effectively help teachers evaluate the next steps they should take in the instructional process.¹

Why Write Items?

Writing assessment items is a fantastic way for teachers to study and explore their grade level content area standards.  The creative process produces immediate results for teachers, informing student learning and teacher instruction grounded in the tested standards.  Creating the venue for teacher dialogue, teachers can learn from each other as they discuss the intent and nuances of the standards.  Teachers develop a deeper understanding of the standards from these conversations. Writing items also allows teachers to tailor items to identify common learning gaps.  Finally, the item writing process is complete when teachers meet to discuss the results and examine how the items functioned.

How to Improve Your Skills

Writing assessment items benefits from skill and practice.  The process requires some knowledge of national, state and local standardized assessments and their item types, distractors and formatting.  Additionally, knowledge of the psychology of student behavior related to assessment is very helpful when writing items.  Developing a checklist to ensure common formatting and stylistic elements are consistent improves the quality of items and limits student error for non-content-related errors. We’ve created an awesome infographic to help you take your item-writing skills to the next level with specific practices to follow (and some to avoid!). Download the Nuts & Bolts of Good Item Writing Infographic here.
¹(Turner, 2014)

IA’s Pledge: Safeguarding Student Privacy

By | Students | No Comments

Over the past decade, classroom technology has improved the learning environment for every stakeholder in student education. With technology comes additional challenges including protecting student data and privacy.

At Interactive Achievement, we take protecting student data as seriously as seeing the children of our future succeed. Educators and families have trusted IA to support their educational needs and safeguard student privacy for years, and for that we are honored. To reinforce our commitment, we recently signed the Student Privacy Pledge to protect student information.

As signatories of the pledge, we promise to:
• Use data for authorized education purposes only.
• Not sell student personal information.
• Not use or disclose student information for behavioral targeting of advertisements.
• Not change privacy policies without notice and choice.
• Enforce data retention best practices.
• Support parental access to, and correction of, their children’s information.
• Maintain a security program designed to protect the security of data against risks.
• Be transparent about collection and use of student data.

The commitments stated above are not a change in the way we do business at Interactive Achievement. The Student Privacy Pledge is our public commitment to responsible data practices, and we invite stakeholders to learn more at http://studentprivacypledge.org/.

Using Descriptive Feedback as Part of Formative Assessment

By | Formative Assessment | 2 Comments


Formative assessment improves student achievement.  It has been proven in countless research studies, conducted over the past decade, to be one of the most effective instructional tools to positively influence student achievement.  When teachers, students, and their peers effectively utilize formative assessment, they are making conscientious decisions about the next steps in the instructional and learning processes that will be optimal for improved learning.

Formative assessment creates a responsive and agile learning environment where teachers and students can self-correct based on assessment data to increase the likelihood of all students mastering the standards and meeting their learning goals. One of the key essential elements of formative assessment is descriptive feedback.  Descriptive feedback should highlight gaps in understanding and specifically inform students on how they can improve their learning rather than listing what they got wrong, thus facilitating a reciprocal learning process between teachers and students.

You can see how descriptive feedback is also a part of the bigger picture of formative assessment through the breakdown below. The five components below can help increase student engagement and allows students to take greater responsibility and joy in their education process.

Assessment for Learning:

  1. Learning Goals
    Teachers set clear and actionable goals for what a student will learn, master and be able to do by the end of the lesson/unit is a great starting point.
  2. Success Criteria
    Students define what their best work will look like and what they need to do to be successful.
  3. Descriptive Feedback
    When a student receives clear and descriptive feedback on their work, they have the opportunity to analyze what they have done well and which part(s) need improvement. Outlining steps to improve their work is encouraged.
  4. Peer & Self-Assessment
    Students can use the feedback from their peers to gauge their work and also self-assess. When students work together to improve their work, it can foster a sense of collaboration. Students can assess themselves by discovering how their work compares to the criteria and exemplar.
  5. Individual Learning Goals
    Reflecting on outcomes is a critical part of descriptive feedback. Taking time to celebrate accomplishments is great for bolstering confidence.  If the activity wasn’t their favorite, they can still learn a great deal by asking themselves how they would do things differently in the future.
“Assessment for Learning” content is inspired by: Black, P.J. & William, D. (1998) Inside the Black Box: Raising standards through classroom management. King’s College, London.

7 Things to Remember About Feedback

Lastly, ASCD has created a great infographic called “7 Things to Remember About Feedback” that gives a few extra ideas to incorporate when using feedback in the classroom as part of your formative assessment plan.



Developing an Authentic Learning Program Through The IA Foundation for Kids

By | IA Foundation for Kids | No Comments

Developing an Authentic Learning Program Through The IA Foundation For Kids

IA Foundation for Kids program through Authentic Learning

Four years ago we decided that we would start the IA Foundation for Kids. We focused our intentions on helping at-risk students throughout the area and state by supporting schools with funds and ideas to help the students on their journey to success. We began doing this specifically through the foundation’s “Success Dollars” program, which has been very successful within local schools.

A Call for Help from the Community

This year, I received a call from our local Dean of the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology, Dr. John Kowalski. He was concerned that the sector of at-risk, minority, and low-income students were severely under-represented at the Governor’s School in our region. Knowing that I have a soft spot for helping all students succeed, I agreed to collaborate with him in creating a summer program for at-risk, minority, and low-income, rising sixth-grade students. Our goal in designing this program was to help these young students get on track academically so that they would be eligible to apply for admission to the Governor’s School by the time they were ninth or tenth-graders.

Dr. Kowalski and Interactive Achievement developed a plan that began in the summer of 2014 with rising sixth-graders in the region who were identified as at-risk, low-income, or minority. The instructional goal of the program was to engage students early-on in authentic learning activities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) content. The program was to encompass an intensive, three-week summer program, plus continued mentoring and guidance over the subsequent three years to keep them on track in math and science studies so they will be eligible to apply for Governor’s School. Each summer, the program plans to grow by adding another group of at-risk, sixth-grade students.

Funding Miracles

I thought it would be difficult to find the funding for this project since the IA Foundation for Kids has many of its funds already promised to local schools for its “Success Dollars” program. However, the Spetzler family of Roanoke County was extremely generous and supportive of the program’s mission and how it could assist students who typically do not have the requisite coursework to apply to Governor’s School. Between the Spetzler family and the I.A. Foundation for Kids, we fully funded the program this year!

After discussing the program with Dr. Rita Bishop, Superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools, we learned from her that at-risk, low-income, and minority students often have very limited computer use outside of the school day. We agreed that through the IA Foundation for Kids; we would donate a laptop computer to every student who completed the summer program. We were now ready to kick off the new summer program!


Jonathan and Mary Hagmaier; pictured with a student who attended the program and was gifted a laptop from the IA Foundation for Kids.

The Intensive 3-Week Program for Authentic STEM Learning

The two teachers leading the summer program were very pleased with the rich and authentic learning that took place during the summer camp. Every student had an independent research project they worked on throughout the three-week event. The goal of these independent research projects was to engage the students in the scientific process while developing practical technology skills. Students collected data, wrote a brief report, created a poster, and presented their results.

In addition to the projects, all of the students had the opportunity to use the resources that the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School (RVGS) has to offer. Starting on the first-day, students were able to experiment with temperature probes, share data online, and create graphs and tables on the computer. Students practiced basic 3D modeling on the computer and were introduced to the 3D printers at the school.

Interactive Achievement is a powerful company and is truly making a difference in the lives of our youth.” –Catherine Shavers Long

The students were thrilled when they had the opportunity to print a personalized key chain to take home! The RVGS faculty did a fantastic job leading the camp; engaging students in authentic activities and projects in chemistry, biology, and environmental science. Students enjoyed watching a digital microscope in action, extracting DNA from strawberries, observing explosions, liquid nitrogen, fire, phase changes, and much more.

In the last few days of the camp, students caught and examined macro invertebrates living in a nearby creek and learned about environmental indicators of water quality. Students built “Faraday Motors” and towers out of batteries, magnets, spaghetti, and tape. The mix of activities generated a lot of excitement for the students, and the amount of exposure the students had to technology and science over the short course of three weeks was astonishing. They truly were excited to come to camp each day to work on their projects and learn from the activities. Finally, students researched STEM jobs in the region and planned to visit those companies next summer.

One Last Thing For Our Friends

As I mentioned earlier, the IA Foundation for Kids rewarded each student with a computer at the end of the camp. However, upon doing so, we realized that many of the students were having trouble with keyboarding and computer technology. The Foundation immediately invested in the resources that the students needed in order to efficiently and effectively use their new laptops.

Next summer will begin again with a new group of 20 rising sixth-graders who will start a three-year process designed to ensure they are eligible to apply to the Governor’s School. This collaboration has proven to be an excellent partnership between the Roanoke Valley area schools and Interactive Achievement. We are invested in its success and have high hopes that it will flourish in the coming years.

Inspired & Impacted By a Young onTRAC User

By | Community, Students | No Comments

Inspired & Impacted By a Young onTRAC User

The story of meeting 10-year-old onTRAC user, Toby Tate, and providing him with a short mentorship was one that inspired employees of Interactive Achievement, leaving us revitalized with the contagious childhood energies of curiosity, playfulness, and an enduring sense that the world is but our oyster; filled with infinite opportunities to explore and fulfill dreams. In a most-humble summary, this was a mentorship that mentored us, too!

Discovering a Gem

Monday, July 7th, 2014 was a typical summer day at Interactive Achievement. The Technology team had just settled into their summer routine, shifting away from production support and into feature development. We were in the process of reviewing resumes from a number of candidates when a message from Dr. Scott Tate, a Research Associate at Virginia Tech came across our HR Director’s desk. He attached a letter from his ten year old son Toby expressing his desire to be a software designer and interests in Interactive Achievement, our development practices, and our core values. He wanted to know if there were any opportunities to “volunteer” and work with our developers.

Now it’s not every day one gets a written letter from a ten year old … especially one that is using your software in school on a regular basis and has already taken courses in writing JavaScript from CodeAcademy. This was someone we had to meet! I called Toby’s dad to make the arrangements and invited our technology team into the conversation. We put aside a Friday morning to entertain Toby and his family. The wheels were in motion!

He Arrived Like a Jedi

When Toby and his dad arrived, it was clear he was prepared. Notebook in hand, he had a list of 30 plus questions he wanted to be answered. As we toured the building, we shared questions, answers, and stories. The questions ranged from “how did you get interested in writing software” to “where do you think the software development market is going” to “what do I need to do to become a better software designer?” He was also curious about inspiration. He was precocious. He was persistent. He was patient. He was on a mission!

I did my best to field his questions, and I asked a few questions of my own. His answers were well-thought out and open. If he did not know the answer, he said so, asking questions to better understand the context of the inquiry. It was clear the experience and opportunity had extreme value to Toby, and he was taking in everything.

Impacting the Team at Interactive Achievement

We wrapped up our tour of the office with a visit to our HR Director, Jacqueline Lackey’s office.

In her words:

“He came around the corner and asked if he could ask me a few questions. If there is one thing this kid is good at, it’s making adults truly think about their education and career choices. Toby asked me about how I ended up at Interactive Achievement and how I knew I wanted to work in Human Resources. I had to be perfectly honest and tell him that I tried a lot of careers out before I ended up with one I loved. He asked me to continue exploring volunteer opportunities, and I promised I would. With the pressure off of me, I walked him upstairs to the technology department where he continued grilling the employees. Having his energy in the building was refreshing and inspiring.”

Next up was Rob Williams, our Development Manager. Toby asked direct questions, maintained good eye contact, and explored insights into Rob’s experiences as a developer and manager. Rob shared our agile approach to getting from point A to point B in the development cycle and how to adjust to the unexpected (sometimes on a daily basis). Rob explored a project Toby had discovered; the dismantling of a tube TV Toby had found in the trash. They discussed the various types of people and processes involved in building the TV.

Toby met with two members of our development team next, Derick and Carine. Derick is one of our senior developers and architects. He has a soft spot for mentoring. Carine is a User Interface developer with an eye for design and simplified user experiences.

In Derick’s words:

“Before his visit, I had already heard that Toby was using the Internet to teach himself a programming language, and he was only ten years old. I remember thinking to myself, ‘That’s some initiative for such a young person!’ I was not completely surprised when he walked into the room with us, introduced himself, and then pulled out a clipboard and a pen and announced, ‘I have some questions for you.’ He asked some great questions, and it was fun to tell him the stories about the paths we have taken in life to end up at Interactive Achievement, working on a product of which we are all very proud.”

The day was also amazing for Toby’s dad, Scott.

“We really appreciate the time you and your team spent with Toby on Friday. It was a valuable experience for all of us. Please thank everyone for us. Just this morning, as we continued to process the visit, Toby mentioned how everyone there seemed so excited about their work, passionate about the company and had such interesting stories to tell. Meighan and I also feel really fortunate to have had a chance to meet such a great group of people and to learn more about your work.”

Embracing Our Company Culture of H.U.G. Everyday

This is a drawing by Toby, representing his experience at Interactive Achievement. He even referenced the arcade game in the Tech Department. :)

This is a drawing by Toby, representing his experience at Interactive Achievement.

This is one of the many reasons I do what I do. I love connecting people, solving problems, and growing community. Kids are an integral part of that community.

Toby is an exceptional human being, and I look forward to hearing about his adventures. His parents, Scott and Meighan, have their hands full. Supporting their son’s adventures and explorations in his community and his areas of interest can be time-consuming and expensive. They are doing it right, and we here at Interactive Achievement live our core values every day.

H.U.G. – Honorable, Unselfish, and Generous. It is how we do business every day, with our clients, our students, our staff, and in our community.

Thank you Toby, for an exceptional experience!

10 Ways to Increase Student Engagement

By | Formative Assessment | No Comments


Veteran and new teachers alike recognize the fact that if their students are not engaged and fully participating in the learning process then it is highly unlikely that they will comprehend what is being taught and demonstrate mastery of the learning objectives for the lesson. Engaging every student has been a perennial challenge for educators. However, research in this area has revealed much about how teachers can design learning experiences that interest students and maintain their engagement.

This substantive engagement in the learning process drives them to become invested in evaluating and reflecting upon their academic growth.  Students need to be engaged in rigorous assignments and mentally committed to their assignments.  Lessons must move beyond rote learning and superficial understanding to the development of higher order thinking skills and application of knowledge to new and novel situations.

10 Ways to Increase Student Engagement:

  1. Create an emotionally safe classroom
    Emotionally safe classroom settings encourage respectful interactions where children feel they can express themselves without fear.  Failure is a normal part of the learning curve and does not mean that a child who experiences it is actually a failure.  Children who feel that they are in an emotionally safe classroom feel free to explore, debate, problem-solve and practice. It allows them to easily harness higher-order thinking skills.
  2. Create an intellectually safe classroom
    Begin each class with an activity that 95% of the class can complete on their own. Activities like this get the lesson started with everyone on board; feeling confident and ready to participate.
  3. Cultivate appropriate intermediate steps
    When it comes to project-based learning, building in appropriate intermediate steps can help manage the process with the extra guidance students may need. As opposed to assigning the project with a week’s deadline and cutting the students lose from there, a teacher may decide to create a few steps to do together so that everyone is on board. For example, interviewing an adult may seem intimidating at first, but if the brainstorming and other critical pieces are researched and outlined together as steps, it can make tackling this project a lot more manageable and enjoyable for the students.
  4. Practice journal or blog writing to communicate with students
    Using the last five minutes of class time to reflect, review, and summarize can prove to be incredibly helpful in reaffirming what students have already learned and also provides an opportunity to get some additional clarity on the points where they are still struggling. Encourage students to reflect on the day’s lesson via their journal or blog.  You may also choose to respond to journals with comments to continue the conversation and encourage those reflections.
  5. Create a culture of explanation instead of a culture of the right answer
    Create a challenge that can be solved in three different ways and encourage students to find all three solutions. This practice helps engage students to think critically and thoughtfully observe different approaches to arrive at solutions. Helping them to practice seeing solutions from different viewpoints cultivates creativity, awareness, and tolerance.
  6. Teach self-awareness about knowledge
    Encourage students to honestly self-reflect about their understanding before moving onto the next lesson.  For example, try creating a formative assessment for each lesson with 3-5 questions to gauge student understanding. The questions can reflect what was taught and also incorporate another component: how the student is feeling about their grasp on the concept.  Encourage each student to rate their understanding from 1-3.  By helping students to take greater responsibility for their understanding, they will be more apt to take initiative as soon as they feel they need more clarification on the concept.
  7. Use questioning strategies that make all students think and answer
    In most classrooms when a question is asked, the same reliable hands will raise each time.  This issue leads to inattention in the classroom.  Another method to everyone participating is to ask a question and have all students give an answer at the same time.  One method could be done by coming up with “finger signals”: one finger for ‘yes,’ two fingers for ‘no’ and three fingers for ‘unsure.’  By gauging students frequently using this method, you will have everyone participating in their learning processes.
  8. Practice using the design process to increase the quality of work
    Many professionals like engineers and artists use the design process to continually refine their work and arrive at their final masterpiece.  They often start with a sketch or rough draft and submit it for feedback and continuously refine their ideas based on constructive criticism. By encouraging this process to be used by your students, the quality of their work can improve a lot more than being graded on the initial effort.
  9. Market your projects
    Making sure students understand exactly why they are participating in a learning activity or engaging in a specific concept is crucial to building trust in their learning environment.  Engaging in authentic tasks that help students grow in their lives, job, and relationships increase participation and ownership of the learning process.
  10. Give specific feedback often
    Giving specific feedback is supportive and helpful in the student’s learning process. Providing specific feedback grounded with evidence enables students to make informed decisions on how to refine their work.  They also get a clear understanding of where they stand with their teacher, fostering confidence and safety in their learning environment.


A portion of the content from 10 Ways to Increase Student Engagement was modified from Tristan de Frondeville’s article, found here.

How Does a Rigorous Formative Assessment Plan Fit into an Instructional Program?

By | Formative Assessment, In the Classroom | No Comments

How Does a Rigorous Formative Assessment Plan Fit into an Instructional Program?


Formative assessment is a philosophy of teaching and learning grounded in the instructional cycle of engaging students in interesting learning activities, assessing, analyzing the data (teachers and students), providing corrective instruction, and re-assessing.  It consists of aligning standards, content, and assessments; strategically selecting instructional strategies to meet the needs of all learners, including opportunities for assessment within instruction instead of after instruction; and guiding the day-to-day, minute-to-minute instructional decisions of teachers.

Teachers who frequently collect and analyze assessment results, and modify instruction based on data are more effective at improving student learning than those who do not engage in these practices.  Once teachers have an understanding of what students need to be successful, they create a rigorous learning environment and scaffold students as they work on tasks that require higher-level thinking.  This promotes a class culture where all students can achieve at high levels.

A rigorous formative assessment fits into an instructional program by framing the instructional pieces around the focus of rigor.  An instructional plan becomes rigorous when you add the following ingredients:

  1. Cognitive Engagement
    This type emphasizes substantial engagement, which involves the student adhering to the procedures of instruction but also interacting with the content of the lesson in a deep and thoughtful manner.
  2. Student Engagement
    Connecting with the learning process drives students to become invested in evaluating and reflecting upon their academic growth. This is essential to supporting their understanding and development of higher order thinking skills and application of knowledge to new situations.
  3. Ongoing Assessment
    This kind of assessment practice takes place during an assignment, lesson, project or unit.  The teacher and/or student peers are providing immediate feedback on progress toward the goal.  This allows learners to course correct during the learning process so their chances for success are greatly increased.
  4. Complex Content
    Complex content refers to text complexity which is a combination of the reading/Lexile level of the text and use of specific academic vocabulary.

To learn more about the steps to creating a rigorous formative assessment plan, you can download our eBook for free here.

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