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Assessment Consortium Crafts Plan for Formative Resources

One of the things I hear most frequently on my beat, reporting on common standards and assessments, is frustration with the lack of instructional resources available at the moment. (See one of my stories about this here.) So it's worth noting the progress of significant efforts to create those resources.

As you know, the two assessment consortia are working on a range of resources. Yesterday, I sat in on one of the twice-monthly teleconferences of states who belong to the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, and a key topic of discussion was finalizing the master work plan for the online bank of formative resources it will create for teachers. The work plan is in late draft stages; governing states in the consortium are scheduled to vote on its approval between today and May 15.

Before I tell you more about the formative plan, it's worth clarifying here that we are not talking about the consortium's master plan for development of the summative test system. That is a different animal; it covers all the pieces of work necessary to build a very complex assessment system. You can find the most current version of that work plan, along with a full procurement schedule for pieces of that work, and a briefer update to that schedule, here.

The master work plan for the development of formative-assessment resources, on the other hand, isn't online yet. It's been circulating among member states and SBAC leadership as it is discussed and revised. The last call for input drew over 100 comments from member states, officials said during yesterday's telephone meeting.

A new element that's been added to the plan for formative resources is the creation of a team that will craft quality criteria policies that will shape what does—and doesn't—get into this bank of resources. In their feedback on the draft plan, states indicated that they wanted teachers involved early on in helping develop and curate the things that will be included in the bank of resources. While such teacher involvement has always been envisioned, the consortium made a point of moving it earlier in the process in response to that feedback.

As a result, the consortium's "state networks of educators"—a projected 90 teachers from each member state—will be in on the ground level, along with state leadership teams and a national advisory panel of experts on formative assessment, according to the current draft of the master work plan.

The library of resources will include materials designed to improve "assessment literacy," which means understanding of assessment more broadly (including definitions of omnipresent terms such as formative, interim and summative assessment), and understanding of the SMARTER Balanced assessment system specifically. Some trainings will be online; others will be face-to-face sessions, according to the draft plan.

But the piece of the digital library that is perhaps most widely anticipated is the sample instructional modules that will be housed there.

In addition to a current plan for 52 of those modules, the work plan calls for "lesson plans, templates, curriculum resources, evidence collection tools, teacher analysis, descriptive feedback strategies and follow-up planning." There will also be training materials on how to use the exemplar modules.

Each module will include guidance for teachers on how to scaffold material for students, as well as links to informational texts that might prove useful, and protocols on how to analyze student work. They will be designed to help teachers understand "the full cycle of formative assessment practices—identifying learning targets, using tools/strategies to gather evidence of student understanding, analyzing the evidence, providing feedback, making adjustments, and helping students reassess, in a recursive process," according to the draft work plan.

Tony Alpert, SBAC's chief operating officer, noted during the meeting that while some of the resources in the library will be created by member states, others might well be existing materials that would be adapted or used as is.

The site will allow users of all these tools to comment on them, and for the tools to be revised according to feedback. According to the plan, work on the modules is scheduled to begin next March and conclude in May 2014.

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