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Research shows that using formative assessment data to tailor instruction to student needs can improve student achievement. However, a recent research brief published by the Center for Urban Education Leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago argues that testing corporations may not produce data that helps educators make the best decisions for their students.

The brief notes that evaluations of the relationship between using large-scale formative assessments and standardized assessment scores have produced negative or null effect sizes. Furthermore, formative assessment data tends to provide information about discrete skills students must master to improve their assessment scores. Didactic instruction that addresses one skill at a time has been found ineffective in engaging students and can exacerbate race or class-based opportunity gaps.

Thus, the brief concludes that school leaders and classroom teachers should exercise caution when analyzing formative data provided by assessment corporations. Instead, they should focus on higher-order thinking skills, depth of knowledge, and acceleration.

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