Is Your Student Receiving Formative Assessments?

“You got a C?…are you kidding me!  I didn’t know you were struggling in this class!”


Parents, too often, you find yourselves in this position—my child is struggling and I didn’t even know it. You may have studied your child’s progress on the school website, cancelled plans for extensive homework assignments, even called in extra help to make sure that your student learns. How could your student be struggling when everything looked so up?


Completing assignments routinely can be deceiving; a better gauge of a student’s progress is the result of a formative assessment!


Crash course—formative assessments are tools teachers administer to identify whether or not a student has grasped a concept. Formative assessments can come in all forms and be called by many names…quizzes, warm-ups, oral discussion questions…the list goes on. The key is the teacher giving the student the assignment before an assignment that greatly impacts the student’s grade. This way, the teacher can clear up misunderstandings before a student builds a learning gap and is lost for lessons to come.


Why Are Formative Assessments Important?


Formative assessments let teachers, students, and parents know where a student’s weaknesses are before these weaknesses wreak havoc. Observe this scenario:


Mia’s English Teacher introduces a lesson on the literary device tone and how authors use it to convey a message. The next day, the teacher gives Mia a quiz as soon as she enters the room, requiring her to use and identify “tone” in writing. Mia, caught off guard, tries her best, but fails miserably. The low quiz grade dropped her course score from an 89% to an 81%.


In this example, Mia was not given an opportunity to show the teacher that her understanding was not sound, through a formative assessment. Maybe, if Mia’s teacher assigned homework practice or played a review game at the beginning of class, her weaknesses would have been exposed, prior to being “penalized” for low performance. Observe the same scenario, with formative assessment:


Mia’s English Teacher introduces a lesson on the literary device tone and how authors use it to convey a message. For homework, Mia watched a brief review video. The next day, the teacher gave Mia a crossword puzzle as soon as she entered the class, to assess her understanding of “tone”. Mia answered 57% of the questions correctly. Seeing this, Mia’s teacher retaught parts of the previous lesson to make sure that her student was sound in understanding. The following day, Mia took a “tone” quiz—scoring 89% correctness.


In this realistic scenario, Mia was able to:

  1. Communicate her weaknesses
  2. Practice her skills and receive feedback
  3. Be tested on the concept fairly vs.


  1. Remaining unaware of weaknesses
  2. Receiving no practice time, nor feedback
  3. Unprepared, thus, tested unfairly


As a Parent, What Do I Do?


  1. Check to see if the teacher is giving formative assessments
  2. On a weekly basis, ask for feedback concerning your student’s strengths and weaknesses
  3. Make TV/media time useful by watching fun documentaries or cartoon episodes about what was read or discussed in class (Netflix and YouTube are great resources!)
  4. Talk: have your student explain learned concepts as a debrief and review while in the car or before going to bed


 Written by Dana H., Novastar Prep Subject Coach


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