Tremendous energy is going into thinking about how Kentucky teachers can gather evidence of what students know and can do and quickly use that evidence to adjust their teaching. That effort is spoken of as "formative assessment" in Senate Bill 1 and as "assessment for learning" in many educator conversations around the state.
And yet, I only remembered yesterday afternoon that I saw this practice in work when I was five.
In my first-grade reading group, Mrs. Parsons listened as each of us read aloud. Often she'd let us work through the entire passage, but sometimes she'd offer quick help with a troublesome word. Or she'd have us all work with a particular consonant blend for a couple of minutes. Occasionally, she'd move a few of us into different reading groups, based on the progress we'd been making in recent weeks. Eventually (because the school was ferociously tracked), she even arranged for me to switch from her classrom to Mrs. Bauman's.
In all of that, she was gathering evidence and using it to adjust instruction, often making decisions right in the middle of our work.
I've blogged briefly about the work on mathematics assessment for learning being done in six Kentucky districts through a Gates Foundation grant to the Prichard Committee. There, folks are working on high school level mathematics. In some ways, the student tasks being used are very different from beginning reading. And yet, at its heart, there's a model of teachers engaging students in active work and responding in "real time" to the strengths and weaknesses students reveal that seems remarkably like what Mrs. Parsons did so long ago.
The heart of formative assessment is gathering evidence to adjust instruction, with the adjustment part sometimes coming within minutes of the evidence emerging.