In the middle of the last century, America led the world in training students to be highly productive and contributing members of society. However, in the past 30 years, public education strategies in the U.S. have remained stagnant while other highly developed countries have surpassed it. A comparison of the education systems in these countries shows that the U.S. focus on summative assessments of performance, while ignoring formative assessment, has contributed to this stagnation.
The U.S. education system needs to prepare students for jobs that require high cognitive functioning, such as problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, and creativity. It must also prepare students to thrive in a world which is getting smaller, changing at an accelerating pace and in unpredictable directions. The 21st century is challenging people to be highly collaborative, adaptive, and open to new ideas and diverse cultures. Formative assessment is critical to developing these skills and abilities.
Americans will not accept a reduced standard of living due to poor performing schools. The political will to make necessary changes is coming. The education community needs to continue its drive to implement 21st century teaching strategies, and formative assessment is critical to those strategies. Formative Assessment requires highly skilled teachers with access to excellent support technologies. This includes tools to give immediate feedback to students as they learn, encourage self-assessment and peer-to-peer assessment, monitor student performance to highlight areas of focus, and other functions. Tools using artificial intelligence can help teachers simulate formative assessment scenarios, and can even help mentor students.