Formative assessment strategies for success

During a recent eSchool News webinar, experts revealed how formative assessment can support the curriculum


A key takeaway was that formative assessment is a process, and not a “one moment in time” event.

How can formative assessment be used to support the curriculum? This was the subject of a recent webinar sponsored by SunGard K-12 Education, during which two experts revealed their strategies for success.

The panelists were John Phillipo, founder and executive director of the Center for Educational Leadership and Technology, and Bethany Silver, director of assessment, evaluation, and research for the Bloomfield, Conn., schools.

Moderating the discussion was Joel Hames, director of product management for SunGard.

Here’s a partial transcript of the event; to experience the full archived version, click here.

Joel: One of the things I think we need to take away from this is that formative assessment is a process. Those of you who have been practicing for a while probably know this intuitively. It’s really a process, and not a “one moment in time” event that occurs.

There are four primary attributes of this process. It begins with clarifying the intended learning—describing your learning targets in student-friendly language. We then move to eliciting evidence, and this isn’t just paper-and-pen tests—it’s all the obtrusive and unobtrusive pieces that you take on or interactions you have with students.

After we elicit the evidence we need to interpret it, understand what it means in the context of that student’s experience and the learning target itself. And then finally, acting on that evidence: How do you move the student forward? What kind of feedback are you giving?

The first question I have for our panelists is, how can formative assessment be effectively integrated into the classroom?


Two key steps to using digital content

Digital content can offer better learning opportunities, but transitioning to them may be a challenge for districts

digital-textbooksToday, it seems like digital content is king. But how can districts effectively navigate the transition to digital content and digital resources?

Despite digital content’s benefits, including a lower cost and better capacity for being up-to-date, barriers still exist that make it difficult for schools and districts to make the digital transition.

During an edWeb session on migrating to digital content, Jonathan Costa, director of school and program services for Education Connection, a former educator, and author of Digital Learning For All, Now!, offered a look at important steps in moving to digital content.

“We’ve been advocating for one-on-one digital learning for many years,” Costa said. “We came to the understanding, over time, that even when districts and schools have one-to-one access, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will make a transition to digital content.”

(Next page: The first two steps in a digital content migration)


Beat the ‘summer slide’ with free CCSS-aligned resources

Students can avoid the oft-cited summer slide and even advance proficiency

summer-slideFor the third year, Learning Upgrade is offering complimentary “Summer School” access to its web-based Common Core-aligned curriculum to all qualifying U.S. schools and districts.

Through the incorporation of songs, video, games, and extensive educational research, Learning Upgrade helps students reach and exceed grade level requirements in both math and English/language arts. The complimentary summer licenses provide users full access to all of Learning Upgrade’s K-8 courses, including the newly released Math Upgrade 6 Common Core lessons.

Learning Upgrade’s platform provides students with immediate feedback, as well as additional support and remediation when and where students need it. Once a student has demonstrated mastery of a given skill, they are automatically advanced to the next lesson.

Research from the National Summer Learning Association shows that, without refreshing their memories, students may lose up to two months of grade-level equivalency over the summer.

Many summer school participants use Learning Upgrade courses to ensure new, incoming students are prepared for the upcoming school year. Middle schools use the company’s Math Upgrade 5 courses to ensure incoming sixth graders are at or above grade level by the start of school. Reports provide teachers with insight into each student’s gaps and needs for additional support.

Each web-based course can be used within a summer school setting or at home. The platform allows teachers to quickly and easily track individual student progress over the summer and provide immediate feedback to parents and students through web-based reports.

To sign up, visit and click the “Start Free Trial” button, “Sign Up” for a free school license, simply mention “Summer School” in the information box, and include the number of student licenses you need.


Despite ‘bubble’ risks, ed-tech innovation soars

Although there may be an ed-tech bubble, there is no sign of it bursting any time soon

ed-tech-bubbleVeteran ed-tech journalist Frank Catalano shares useful advice to would-be ed-tech entrepreneurs.

Namely, that rapid growth in the industry has resulted in a bubble; that education and ed-tech are not monolithic entities; and entrepreneurs must do their homework and due diligence to see what has worked in the past and what has failed.

Read the full story from

Yet despite the risks, there may never be a better time than now for ed-tech startups. In 2013, entrepreneurs raised more than half a million, compared to over $200 million in 2008. Read the full story in VatorNews.

Ed-tech innovation is not limited to adults. From April 11-13, middle school students pitched ideas and received coaching on business, ed-tech and coding at Mountain View Startup Weekend Education, “the youngest age group in Startup Weekend history.”

For more on how youngsters are becoming future ed-tech leaders, read Michaela Brown’s reporting in EdSurge.

Watch this recap of Startup Weekend.

Michael Sharnoff is Associate Online Editor for eSchool News. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_eSM.


$500 prizes for deserving teachers

Nominate a deserving educator on the contest’s Facebook page and that educator could win prizes from places like Amazon, The Container Store, The Limited, Pottery Barn,,, and more.


Challenge students with this digital citizenship contest

This past fall, Common Sense Media debuted its first music video, Pause & Think Online, an animated song for kids to learn about digital citizenship. We love our colorful characters but think your students would be even better sharing the message – and we want to see them! Have students create a video, in which they sing, dance, act and/or animate their own characters. The video must:

  • Incorporate the Pause & Think Online song
  • Include Pause & Think Online in your video title
  • Feature elementary students, from grades K-5
  • Feature participants who have parent-signed Release Forms
  • Be no longer than 3 ½ minutes
  • Contain no copyrighted material (unless you have permission)
  • Include end credits (but no full names of students)
  • Be posted as a public video on YouTube

Students: Describe your goals, win an iPad Mini

This year’s contest asks students to answer the following question: What is a goal you want to accomplish and why? Students can answer the question in the form of a video or an essay, and they can also elaborate by explaining what motivates them, who has encouraged them, how they plan to accomplish this goal, and how will their education help them. Four students will win a new iPad Mini. Additionally, the four winners’ teachers will receive a $100 gift card.