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Volume 22, Number 6
November/December 2006

(In)formative Assessments

New tests and activities can help teachers guide student learning


Although many teachers in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era complain that students take too many tests, teachers at the John D. Philbrick Elementary School in Boston eagerly signed on last year to give students six more tests a year. The tests, known as Formative Assessments of Student Thinking in Reading, or FAST-R, are short multiple-choice quizzes that probe key reading skills. The tests are designed so that teachers can make adjustments to their instruction based on students’ answers.

With FAST-R “we get concrete, helpful information on students very quickly,” says Steve Zrike, Philbrick’s principal.

Now used in 46 schools in Boston, FAST-R is part of a rapidly growing nationwide effort to implement so called formative assessments—tests that can inform instruction through timely feedback.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

P. Black and D. Wiliam. “Assessment and Classroom Learning.” Assessment in Education 5, no. 1 (1998): 7-74.

P. Black and D. Wiliam. “Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment.” Phi Delta Kappan 80, no. 2 (1998): 139-148.

L. A. Shepard. “The Role of Classroom Assessment in Teaching and Learning.” (CSE Technical Report 517.) Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, National Center on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, 2000.