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Learning to use formative assessment in one New Jersey tutoring program

Patrick Steck

Patrick Steck

Categories: Teaching Practice, Policy and Advocacy, Tutoring

During a recent visit to the New Jersey Tutoring Corps (NJTC), I watched Kathy Ricci, an instructional coach, walk through a student’s diagnostic assessment data with Frank, a tutor interested in becoming a full-time teacher. The elementary math data was grouped into four domains: Number and Operations; Algebra and Algebraic Expressions; Measurement and Data; and Geometry. At the beginning of the tutoring program, Kathy and Frank had analyzed the student’s baseline data and helped them set a goal of growth across at least two domains.

Now, nearing the end of the program, Frank and Kathy discussed the student’s progress on that week’s learning objectives, reflected on instructional strategies Frank had employed, and identified priorities for the following week.

This was a great example of how meaningful field experiences like tutoring can not only solidify future teachers’ desire to teach, but also strengthen instructional skills, such as analysis and planning based on formative assessment data.

Kathy finds this kind of instructional experience uncommon for many future teachers. Whereas traditional early field experiences often involve teacher-candidate observation from the back of a classroom, this on-the-job learning experience empowers future teachers to feel in charge of the learning that results from their instruction. In Kathy’s words, aspiring teachers will enter classrooms “with newfound confidence.”

Through the New Jersey Tutoring Corps – a statewide high-impact tutoring initiative – aspiring teachers who are serving as tutors learn to analyze formative assessment data from i-Ready,  a platform used widely across the US. This is key: they are learning to work with assessment data similar to what they will experience as teachers of record.

Each week, coaches and tutors in the NJTC use the data generated by the assessment to guide their planning and delivery of instruction. The data allows coaches like Kathy to provide timely, actionable feedback that helps tutors understand how to improve. In administering the assessment, tutors are also able to access real-time information on how students are progressing. For example, while another tutor, Steve, was administering an assessment to a third-grade student, he noticed her struggling to identify the properties of quadrilaterals. Steve took note of this during the assessment and revisited the concept with the student once she completed the assessment.

The opportunity to engage with formative assessment data as an NJTC tutor is particularly valuable in equipping novice teachers like Christian McCarville with practical experiences that will ultimately strengthen how they lead classrooms of their own.

Students need great tutors who hold themselves and their students to high expectations for learning. The work of tutoring, like that of teaching, is no easy task. Educational leaders can support tutors to be successful by ensuring they receive rigorous training, actionable and ongoing coaching, and access to tools that can bolster the delivery of effective instruction.


This is the second of a two-part series on the New Jersey Tutoring Corps, a program in our Aspiring Teachers as Tutors Network. Read part one: Building confidence and joy: how tutoring is sparking promise in New Jersey.