Sunday, April 24, 2011

ETS Pushes For FORMATIVE Assessment?

Some blog followers might be interested in discussion-list post “ETS Pushes For FORMATIVE Assessment?” [Hake (2011)].

The abstract reads:


ABSTRACT: ARN-L’s Monty Neil has pointed to Valerie Strauss’ “Parents spell out detailed school reform blueprint” at Among the recommendations is: “Less standardized testing overall. Utilizing tests as DIAGNOSTIC tools, not as a way to punish students, teachers, and schools.”

Then ARN-L’s Bob Schaeffer indicated a related ETS news release “ETS and schoolBrains (TM) Join Forces to Provide School Districts with Items for Benchmark Assessments” at, wherein it’s stated:

Benchmark assessments are a must in today's educational environment with districts needing the ability to demonstrate student proficiency . . . . in order to meet state and federal guidelines for success. . . . The ETS formative assessment Item Bank contains more than 64,000 high-quality items that measure English Language Arts (reading and writing) and mathematics proficiency for kindergarten through grade 12 and science proficiency for grades 3 through high school.”

However, formative evaluation is defined by the “Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation” as: “evaluation designed and used to improve an object, especially when it is still being developed.” But state and federal guidelines require SUMMATIVE evaluation. So it's not clear to me why ETS and schoolBrains are touting the new tests as “FORMATIVE assessment.”

I have discussed the unrealized potential that formative assessment might have for enhancing learning in U.S. Higher Education in “The Physics Education Reform Effort: A Possible Model for Higher Education” at

BTW, regarding the distinction sometimes made between assessment and evaluation, the late Bob Leamnson opined “To the several who suggested that ‘we all get together’ (somehow) and agree on how ‘evaluation’ and ‘assessment’ are to be defined and thereafter used by one and all, I suggest that you're trying to swim up Niagara Falls.”


To access the complete 14 kB post please click on

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University

Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands

President, PEdants for Definitive Academic References which Recognize the Invention of the Internet (PEDARRII)

“What we assess is what we value. We get what we assess, and if we don’t assess it, we won’t get it.”

Lauren Resnick [quoted by Grant Wiggins (1990)]

REFERENCES [All URL's shortened by and accessed on 24 April 2011.]

Hake, R.R. 2011. “ETS Pushes For FORMATIVE Assessment?” online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at Post of 24 Apr 2011 14:04:36 -0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to various discussion lists.

Neil, M. 2011. “Parents offer reform blueprint to counter NCLB & Dept Blueprint - greatly parallels FEA proposals,” ARN-L post of 23 Apr 2011 08:22:34-0400; online on the OPEN! ARN-L archives at

Schaeffer, B. 2011. “Test-Makers Pursue Market for Common Standards ‘Formative Assessments’,” ARN-L post of 23 Apr 2011 13:30:16-0400; online on the OPEN! ARN-L archives at

Wiggins, G. 1990. “The Truth May Make You Free, But the Test May Keep You Imprisoned: Toward Assessment Worthy of the Liberal Arts,” AAHE Assessment Forum: 17-31; online at

1 comment:

Bill said...

Thank you for your posts, I enjoy reading them. I appreciate you pointing out the summative, formative differences in the SchoolBrains ETS press release. SchoolBrains software, when used with the ETS item banks allows educators to build both summative and formative assessments by using various filters and processes. We apologize that the press release is confusing. Thank you for what you do for education. (Dr. William Densberger, vice president, SchoolBrains)