Highlander Launches Formative Assessment App for iPads & Smart Phones

New England Post – 10/10/2011

The passing of Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs last week brought with it heartfelt tributes — shared on fans’ Facebook walls and Twitterfeeds — from the moment the news was made public.  Pictures, quotes and videos, countless likely posted from devices that Jobs himself helped pioneer and bring to market, were used to celebrate Jobs’ life, career and the undeniable impact he had on culture and technology.

One place where software applications (more commonly known as “apps”) for touch screen devices like iPods, iPhones and iPads can’t be found as readily is in the classroom.  Shawn Rubin and Stephanie Castilla, co-founders of Metryx, figured it was about time for schools to get with the program.

The new Metryx app, a formative assessment tool for teachers, is one week into alpha testing at Highlander Charter School in Providence, Rhode Island.

Mr. Rubin, a teacher with 11 years of experience, told New England Post that it’s challenging for teachers to keep track of each student’s achievements and difficulties.  “I’ve been doing formative assessment in my classroom for the last four years,” Mr. Rubin said.  “But the formative assessment that I used to do was on tiny little scraps of paper.”

Think of formative assessment as qualitative data and notes about each individual student in a given classroom, used to alter teaching practice.  Summative assessment, like test scores, is quantitative and final.

Mr. Rubin continued, “Prior to that, I had been doing differentiated instruction,” or tailoring his lessons to fit student alacrity and aptitude, “but it was not based on formative assessment, it was more based on my gut.”

Mr. Rubin told New England Post that he wanted to know that the decisions he was making—classroom group differentiation chief among them—were backed up by data.