Formative assessment is the process of collecting data to assess student learning and adjust instruction accordingly. This practice helps teachers understand their students’ learning strengths and needs, and supports students in the development of a stronger understanding of their own academic abilities.
In 2020, the Texas Education Agency created the Texas Formative Assessment Resource, an online tool for Texas district and school staff to create, share, administer, and analyze formative assessment resources. The Region 14 Comprehensive Center supports TEA with data collection on current TFAR use to inform continuous improvement of assessment resources.
In 2019, the Texas legislature passed House Bill 3906, which required a redesign of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test and development of an integrated formative assessment pilot to be administered multiple times throughout the school year, allowing students to demonstrate mastery of education standards. This pilot provides teachers with timely feedback data, such as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) performance levels, and encourages the use of formative assessment practices.
To support district and school use of formative assessment practices, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) developed the Texas Formative Assessment Resource (TFAR), a free resource that enables district and school staff to develop and administer assessment tools. TEA promotes TFAR as a tool for formative assessment initiatives and offers resources and professional learning to increase TFAR engagement and use. To ensure that TFAR is useful and responsive to the needs of Texas educators, TEA is examining agency efforts to encourage and support use, looking for ways to strengthen it and make it more accessible and effective for Texas districts and schools.
The Region 14 Comprehensive Center (R14CC), including members from our partner organization WestEd, collaborated with TEA to design and conduct research to gain insights on TFAR use. This effort included developing and administering an online survey of district- and school-level TFAR users to learn how they implement TFAR practices and understand how implementation differs across districts.
For more insights into TFAR use, the R14CC team facilitated two rounds of focus groups with district- and school-level TFAR users to gain detailed information on how the tool is employed at the classroom, campus, and district levels, and what successes and challenges users have encountered. Survey and focus group questions were tailored to reflect various levels of TFAR use (e.g., district curriculum director use, educator use) and collect insights that TEA could use to adjust the agency’s TFAR support materials.
This collaboration has led to an increased understanding of how Texas school districts approach formative assessment and how TFAR fits into these approaches while emphasizing the importance of data-driven improvements.
The R14CC team will deliver a summative report and work with TEA to identify concrete ways to use data to inform TFAR resources, including the possibility of developing online professional development opportunities. R14CC and TEA have started planning discussions about how to highlight TFAR use successes as well as suggestions for addressing use challenges when developing new resources.