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Formative Assessment for the Common Core Literacy Standards


by Robert C. Calfee, Kathleen M. Wilson, Brian Flannery & Barbara A. Kapinus — 2014

Background/Context: As implementation of the Common Core Literacy Standards moves ahead, teachers, students, and schools are discovering that the standards demand a great deal of them in order to achieve the vision of college, career, and citizenship in the global–digital world outlined in the standards. To accomplish the goals and high expectations set forth in the Literacy Standards, teachers confront fundamental changes in their curricular, instructional, and assessment practices.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article presents a working model of the formative assessment process that we think will be essential for effective implementation of the standards. Assessment for learning rather than testing of achievement is presented as a way of guiding teachers and students through the progressions needed to college and career-readiness. The paper is organized around four points: (1) the distinctive features of the model, (2) the match between the model and the vision of the standards, (3) a description of the inquiry process that serves as the “engine” for the model, and (4) an account of the Herman–Heritage cycle-time/grain-size concept that supports ongoing management of formative assessment. The model is designed to be embedded in the project-based activities called for in the standards as students conduct short- and long-term research across the disciplines.

Research Design: This article presents the results of a careful and comprehensive reading of the Common Core Literacy Standards. A focused review of the literature on formative assessment serves as the foundation for the working model presented here.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The conceptual ideas and practical tools discussed in this article point to the need for substantial and sustained professional development, both preservice and inservice, to support the fundamental changes entailed by the standards. To foster the deep understandings called for by the standards, teachers will require an equally deep understanding of formative assessment as a process in which inquiry is embedded in instruction to monitor learning, provide feedback, and shape students learning as it is taking place.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 11, 2014, p. 1-32
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17649, Date Accessed: 10/22/2017 2:10:57 AM

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About the Author
  • Robert Calfee
    Stanford University
    ROBERT CALFEE is a cognitive psychologist with research interests in the effect of schooling on the intellectual potential of individuals and groups. His interests focus on assessment of beginning literacy skills and the broader reach of the school as a literate environment. He is presently Professor Emeritus from Stanford University and the University of California, Riverside. Calfee, R. C. (2013). Knowledge, evidence, and faith. In K. Goodman, R. C. Calfee, & Y. Goodman (Eds.), Whose knowledge counts in national literacy policies. New York: Routledge. Calfee, R. C., & Miller, R. G. (2013). Best practices in writing assessment. In S. Graham, C. A. MacArthur, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Best practices in writing instruction, 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Kathleen Wilson
    University of Nebraska, Lincoln
    E-mail Author
    KATHLEEN M. WILSON is an associate professor of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. As a founding director of the University’s Schmoker Reading Center, she studies teacher professional development in formative assessment and instruction of children experiencing difficulty with literacy acquisition. She is currently exploring teachers’ integration of digital technologies into literacy instruction.

    Wilson, K. M., & Calfee, R. C., (2012). Inquiry-based formative assessment for improving student learning. In E. T. Ortlieb & E. H. Cheek Jr. (Eds.). Literacy research, practice, and evaluation: Vol. 1, Using informative assessments for effective literacy practices (pp. 3–37). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group.

    Wilson, K. M., & Calfee, R. C., with K. Clark. (2011). Classroom assessment. In M. F. Graves, C. Juel, B. B. Graves, & P. DeWitt (Eds.), Teaching reading in the 21st century: Motivating all readers (5th ed., pp. 76–119). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

  • Brian Flannery
    University of Oregon, Eugene
    E-mail Author
    BRIAN FLANNERY works for the College of Education at the University of Oregon as the Coordinator for Global Education. He constructs and implements professional development programs for international audiences in K–12 and higher education, and is an instructor of educational technology. He brings 12 years of experience in K–12 education as a licensed teacher and principal. He holds a BA in Communications, an MA in Education, and is currently completing his doctorate in Education. His areas of research are equity and alternative learning assessments.
  • Barbara Kapinus
    Education Consultant
    E-mail Author
    BARBARA KAPINUS currently is a self-employed consultant working with several education organizations on projects related to standards, assessment, and professional development. Most recently, she served as Director of English Language Arts for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) where she worked with state staff and organizations to develop not only common assessments but also resources related to those assessments. The assessments were computer adaptive and focused on the Common Core State Standards. Prior to her position at SBAC, Barbara was at the National Education Association (NEA) for 13 years where her focus included policy and resources for reading, high school curriculum, early childhood education, federal legislation, and Common Core State Standards.

    Kapinus, B. A. (2014) Assessing students’ reading achievement. In S. B. Wepner, J. T. Feeley, & D. S. Strickland (Eds.), The administration and supervision of reading programs 5th ed. (pp. 144–153). New York: Teachers College Press.

    McCardle, P., Chhabra, V., & Kapinus, B. (2008). Reading research in action: A teacher’s guide for student success. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

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