formative evaluation of a student

James Popham’s recent commentary in EdWeek is a clear reminder for educators to give serious thought to the purpose behind the kinds of formative evaluation they are administering to students. Popham argues that our nation’s obsession with comparison-based, standardized testing offers teachers few, if any, instructional insights.

“America’s students are not being educated as well these days as they should be. A key reason for this calamity is that we currently use the wrong tests to make our most important educational decisions. The effectiveness of both teachers and schools is now evaluated largely using students’ scores on annually administered standardized tests, but most of these tests are simply unsuitable for this intended purpose.

When we use the wrong formative evaluations (tests and quizzes) to evaluate instructional quality, many strong teachers are regarded as ineffective and directed by administrators to abandon teaching procedures that actually work well. Conversely, the wrong test scores often fail to identify truly weak teachers—those in serious need of instructional assistance who don’t receive help because they are thought to be teaching satisfactorily. In both these instances, it is the students who are shortchanged.”Article continued…

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