Common Formative Assessments

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Douglas B. Reeves
About the Authors
1. The Big Picture: How Powerful Practices Connect
2. Formative and Summative Assessments
3. Aligning Common Formative Assessments to Standards
4. Connecting “Unwrapped” Standards to Common Formative Assessments
5. Assessment Literacy
6. Developing and Refining Common Formative Assessments
7. Collaborative Scoring of Common Formative Assessments
8. Collaborative Analysis of Common Formative Assessment Results
9. Schoolwide and Districtwide Implementation of Common Formative Assessments
10. Guidelines for Systemwide Sustainability
Resource: A Framework for Implementing Powerful Practices

About the Author

Larry Ainsworth is the author or coauthor of numerous published books, including: Common Formative Assessments 2.0 (2015), “Unwrapping” the Common Core (2014), Prioritizing the Common Core (2013), Rigorous Curriculum Design (2010), Common Formative Assessments (2006), “Unwrapping” the Standards (2003), Power Standards (2003), Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program (2000 and 2006), Student Generated Rubrics (1998), and Getting Started with Rigorous Curriculum Design: How School Districts Are Successfully Redesigning Their Curricula for the Common Core (2013). His Corwin workshop, “Learning Intentions and Success Criteria” (2016), is a step-by-step process PreK-12 educators use to bring clarity to student learning targets.

Currently an independent education author and consultant, Larry served as the Executive Director of Professional Development at The Leadership and Learning Center in Englewood, Colorado, from 1999 to 2013.  He traveled nationally and internationally to assist school systems in implementing best practices related to standards, assessment, curriculum, and instruction across all grades and content areas. Throughout his career as a professional developer, Larry has delivered keynote addresses and breakout sessions across North America and in Latin America and regularly worked onsite in school systems to assist leaders and educators in understanding and implementing powerful standards-based practices, including prioritizing and “unwrapping” state standards and Common Core standards, developing common formative assessments, designing authentic performance tasks, and creating rigorous curricular units of study in all content areas, PreK through grade 12.

Drawing upon 24 years of experience as an upper elementary and middle school classroom teacher in demographically diverse schools, Larry brings a varied background and wide range of professional experiences to each of his presentations. His primary goal is to help all educators and leaders positively impact student learning using proven practices with standards, assessment, curriculum, and instruction.

Visit Larry’s website at to learn how “Timeless Practices Work Together” to improve student learning.  


"This book is extremely helpful in the use of assessments. It can be useful to both new and veteran teachers. Parents want to know how their students are progressing in school, and these types of assessments can help a teacher answer that question."
*Arlene Myslinski, ESL Teacher*

"Ainsworth and Viegut skillfully weave connections between the works of contemporary researchers to help guide school leaders and teachers through the development of meaningful formative assessments that will make a positive difference for student achievement."
*Catherine Payne, Principal*

"This book is a must-have for teachers and administrators alike. In this age of accountability, it is extremely helpful to have a resource that helps explain assessment practices, disaggregation of data, and the importance of unwrapping the standards. This is a perfect resource for faculty study groups and staff development for educators in grades K-12."
*Susan Stone Kessler, Assistant Principal*

"At a time when teachers are being relentlessly pressured to improve students′ scores on accountability tests, Ainsworth and Viegut offer Common Formative Assessments as a powerful way of coping with accountability while helping kids learn. This important book lays out a game plan for coming up with an educationally defensible response to today′s score-boosting pressures."
*W. James Popham, Emeritus Professor*

"In this era of high-stakes testing, this book conveys the power of formative assessments as a means of improving student achievement by providing educators with specific and timely information they can use to plan instruction. It puts teachers on the road to becoming competent diagnosticians, an invaluable skill as we strive to close the achievement gap."
*Nancy Stark, Education Manager of School Improvement and Literacy*

"Highly recommended—Ainsworth and Viegut have written a clear and helpful guide to navigating the terrain of instruction, assessment, and standards."
*Mike Schmoker, Author, Speaker, and Consultant*

“Common Formative Assessments provides a superb antidote to the ′over-tested and under-assessed′ dilemma. With the practical advice of career educators and the deep insights of one of the nation’s premier professional developers, the authors will help you save time, streamline analysis, avoid unnecessary and pointless busywork and, most importantly, improve student achievement.”
*From the Foreword by Douglas B. Reeves*

"A powerful resource. The authors clarify the terminology of assessment with painstaking precision and offer specific, practical steps to help educators develop their assessment literacy."
*Richard DuFour, Author and Educational Consultant*

"The authors have provided school administrators with some useful guidelines to follow in structuring professional development activities centered on aligning what teachers are teaching to important content standards and assessment objectives."
*Teachers College Record, June 2006*

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