Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

English Language Arts Formative Assessments: A Leadership Opportunity at a Title I Program Improvement Year Five Middle School

  • Author(s): Costa, David
  • Advisor(s): Tucker, Eugene
  • Cooper, Robert
  • et al.


This study examined how school leaders--teachers and administrators-at a high poverty middle school utilized formative assessment information to drive instructional improvement and increase achievement. The purpose of this study was to increase school participants' knowledge and effective application of formative assessment systems. By determining from the participant principal and teacher leaders what they do to support teachers using formative assessment systems in language arts and by synthesizing the research literature of assessment systems, an action research team of thirteen co-created a formative assessment system that met the particular needs of the site's language arts department.

Data collected through preliminary interviews, participant reflections, a review of documents, and post-interviews provided evidence that specific leadership actions led to an improved assessment practices. Teacher participants and the principal exhibited specific leadership actions that advanced improvement in assessment practices and in turn this led to instructional improvement. The leaders shared curricular expertise and instructional materials. Furthermore, the principal communicated a clear expectation for growth and accountability, and the principal articulated a clear vision and mission. The barriers to implementing best assessment practices included minimal time, resources, minimal collaboration, and curricular experience. Again, several leaders assuaged these barriers by sharing resources, content expertise, and pedagogical knowledge. Teacher leaders worked to improve collaboration, and as a result teachers were able to improve assessment practices.

Completing two plan, do, check, and act, action research cycles provided for a greater likelihood of sustained change. Significant implications exist in terms of the study's findings. High poverty schools must continue to utilize assessment results to target students and the particular standards that are most challenging. Teachers must be part of the instructional decision-making process. The findings also offer significant implications for education reform. If policy advocates continue to push for teachers to be evaluated utilizing assessment results, districts must build this capacity in teachers to use results to inform their instruction.

Main Content
Current View