Common Formative Assessment

These assessments are a midway point between standardized tests and classroom formative assessment. Generally, they align in both content and format with local, state, and national assessments. Grade-level and/or content area teachers administer them to students before instruction and again as a post-assessment. Teachers then work collaboratively to analyze the data and use it to guide teaching and learning.

Larry Ainsworth explains them as “Periodic assessments collaboratively designed by grade-level or content area teachers”


How Are They Designed?

Teachers work together to:

  • Identify the essential knowledge and skills to be measured
  • Determine the type of questions: selected response, constructed response, alternative measures
  • Collaboratively design the assessments
  • Decide the frequency of administration

How Are They Used?

Teachers and students use them to:

  • Identify common areas of challenge
  • Encourage student ownership of learning
  • Support instructional strategies and interventions that guide students towards mastery
  • Recognize and diagnose students who need additional support
  • Inform improvement goals for students, teachers, team, and schools


Why Use Them?

Common formative assessments provide regular feedback on student attainment of standards. They support ongoing collaboration between teachers and guides collective decision making. In this way a team develops consistent practice and expectations regarding standards, instruction, and assessment. These types of assessments are used to monitor progress rather than for grading and reporting.

“Common formative assessments promote consistency in expectations and provide timely and specific feedback.” (Ree)

How to Respond?

  • Decide the response trigger: How many students need to show mastery and at what level?
  • Adapt content: Consider starting at a different point and refocus on requisite knowledge and skills
  • Adjust level of challenge: Raise or lower learning targets to match the data
  • Select different resources to meet your student’s learning needs
  • Change the instructional strategy: Consider alternative learning styles
  • Adjust pacing: Speed up or slow down
  • Adjust grouping: Reconsider heterogeneous and homogeneous grouping patterns
  • Modify curriculum: Prioritize timing, emphasis, breadth, and depth