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    What is the Formative Practices Institute?

    The Formative Practices institute (FPI) is a professional development series facilitated by the Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Department of the Seattle Public School District. The institute provides 24 participation hours each school year to teachers and school leaders in Mathematics and English Language Arts, respectively.

    Initiated in the 2015-16 school year, FPI supports teams of teachers as they work collaboratively to:

    • develop a shared understanding of learning expectations for each grade level
    • create common assessments of student learning
    • collectively plan their teaching to address learning gaps 
    The ultimate goal is to close opportunity gaps by delivering responsive core instruction.

    The rationale for FPI is that if schools have high functioning teams of teachers collaborating to analyze common formative assessments then teachers will make instructional shifts that result in eliminating opportunity gaps.

    How does it work?

    Teachers work in grade-level teams with a Mathematics or English Language Arts curriculum specialist to: 
    • create standards-based formative assessments
    • develop protocols for data analysis
    • explore the full intent of the Common Core standards
    • develop action plans for students who either exceed or do not meet learning targets
    Formative assessments come in a variety of shapes and sizes like simple question/answer or writing assignments etc. These allow teachers to diagnose where a student is in relation to where she/he needs to be in order to reach proficiency for their grade. In other words, formative assessments provide the data that teachers analyze to determine how to tailor their instruction to meet individual needs.

    The Formative Practices Institute focuses on formative assessment by asking teachers to ground their instruction with four guiding questions:
    • What do we want students to learn?  
    • How will we know if they’ve learned it?
    • What will we do if they didn’t learn?
    • What will we do if they’ve already learned it?

    The work outlined by these questions provide the cornerstone for gap-closing instructional practice and strategic system-building. By bringing teachers together with this same focus, the Formative Practices Institute is helping to ensure that all students have access to high expectations, standards-based learning opportunities, and instructional supports for successful learning and achievement.

    What impact is it having?

    As of December 2016, 116 Math and 144 ELA teachers from 48 schools have participated in the institute. (See map of schools represented.) 95% of the teachers attending the October 2016 Math FPI said there would be a shift in their instructional practice of analyzing student work. To quote one participant:

    “I will plan more intentionally around assessment data and communicate feedback to students more regularly.”

    Teacher and principal feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers participating in the second year of the institute have demonstrated a stronger awareness of:

    • the vertical progression of standards up the grade levels
    • how to determine students' learning needs along the progression
    • how to evaluate and modify assessments for greater clarity and precision 
    All of this serves to strengthen the quality and calibration of core instruction. 116 Math and 144 ELA teachers from 48 schools have participated to date.

    What do teachers say about it?

    We asked some teachers to explain what the Formative Practices Institute meant to them. Hear their answers in the video below (or view photos of them in training).