BUILDing Strong Foundations

The K-3 Formative Assessment Consortium

2/20/2014 12:00:00 AM
Posted by: BUILD Initiative

Gerry Cobb, Director
BUILD Initiative State Services

An Important Step Forward in K-3 Education Reform

In the past few years, much has changed in the early childhood landscape. Through the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), the federal government defined a kindergarten entry assessment and articulated its main purpose. Then first through the Early Learning Challenge and subsequently through an Enhanced Assessment Grant (EAG) opportunity, federal leaders created incentives for states to develop and implement kindergarten entry assessments (KEA). The attractiveness of the EAG approach was that it has encouraged states to band together and think collectively.

In their Early Learning Challenge application, North Carolina leaders have taken a visionary approach to meeting the kindergarten entry assessment component. The approach North Carolina is taking begins at kindergarten entry, generating a Child Profile of children’s learning and development, and continues through third grade, making information available to both teachers and students that will be used to inform teaching and learning.

The goal is to provide teachers, parents, students, policymakers and others who care about education in the critical early years a user-friendly, effective resource for generating clear information on where children are in their learning and where they need to go next.

A Meaningful Tool

This formative approach will be different from many traditional kindergarten entry assessments. Rather than being used only to sum up what children already have and have not achieved, the assessment results will guide instruction and give teachers and students a meaningful tool for adjusting teaching and learning. This will help schools meet the state’s educational standards and support each individual child’s learning from kindergarten through third grade.

State leaders see the development of this K-3 formative assessment as an important step forward in reforming the K-3 education system.. It will provide greater involvement of the family in these early school years and inform an approach to teaching that defines learning holistically, accounts for a children’s diverse learning styles, and focuses on the needs and assets of the individual child.

When faced with the opportunity of having funding to support a consortium, North Carolina leaders jumped at the chance. And, as a result of the EAG competition, in September 2013 the U.S. Department of Education announced a grant of nearly $6.2 million to the state of North Carolina to fund the work of 10 states (AZ, DC, DE, IA, ME, NC, ND, OR, RI, SC) in the development of a K-3 formative assessment. This is one of two multistate consortia (the second one is led by Maryland and Ohio) that were funded that will result in common kindergarten assessment approaches across states.

A Farsighted Vision

North Carolina was already developing the K-3 formative assessment under funding from its RTT-ELC grant. However, what was important to North Carolina leaders was that, through this multi-state consortium, their process (and the field) would benefit from the input of many other state leaders and experts. They definitely took the idea of “more brains are better than one” to heart. State leaders believe that the extra work of collaborating with multiple states will pay off in the development of an assessment approach that will be much stronger and more effective.

Ultimately, since federal resources are being used to develop this K-3 formative assessment, it will be available not only to the states involved in the development but also to any other state that would like to incorporate it into their own assessment approach.
In addition, the K-3 formative assessment approach is being embraced (and enhanced) by nine other states. This represents enormous potential to build a bridge between the birth to five system and the K-12 system – it’s part of a comprehensive assessment system and a student assessment system.

Kudos to the U.S. Department of Education for its farsighted vision in offering this grant opportunity. And, kudos to the leaders in the 10 consortium states who were willing to work together on this important approach.


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