Tom Brady Makes Formative Assessments Look Easy

Tom Brady makes formative assessments, do you?

Tom Brady makes formative assessments, do you?

A few weeks ago, Parul gave me a book called Driven by Data. It’s written by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, the founder of Uncommon Schools, and is basically a playbook on how to use data to drive teaching. Again, some of you may already be hailing data and some of you may be curious, intimidated, or scared. For me, this is new and fairly obvious, so I’ll teach it to the middle.

Uncommon Schools is a charter management organization with schools in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Uncommon Schools places a high priority on quantifying and analyzing data in the hopes that it will yield insights for better teaching.

Word bank

  • line of scrimmage – where the play starts
  • passing play – when the ball is thrown
  • receiver – offensive player to catches the ball
  • man coverage – each defender is responsible for covering one person
  • blitz – when extra defenders try to tackle the quarterback

On page 85 of the book, Bambrick-Santoyo explains formative assessments by comparing them to audibles in football. Babrizck Santoyo defines audibles as offensive “on-the-spot changes to the play based on what they read in the defense.” When Tom Brady steps up to the line of scrimmage, he is making quick checks on the other team’s coverage: Are they dropping defenders in anticipation of a passing play? Are they playing man coverage? Are more defenders lined up for a blitz?

Taking all these little things into account, Tom can override the existing plan and call an audible.  A less experienced quarterback would most likely go with the game plan discussed before the start of the game and wait until a timeout, half time, or to get off the field before making adjustments.

As the quarterback of the classroom, the teacher can make quick checks of what the students are doing and call their own audible—making adjustments when possible as the class is going on.

What are these checks, you ask? Well they can be anything from quizzes to thumbs up or thumbs down. If the chapter test is a summative assessment (that sums up learning), a quiz, exit ticket, or scanning the room for raised hands is a formative assessment (that forms the lesson).

Chances are, if you are reading a blog on educational technology, you are aware of these assessments. Though they sound simple, formative assessments, like anything else, requires planning to be effective. Like I said about exit tickets, come up with these assessments before the class starts and how you will make use of your responses. How will you challenge the students who can teach the lesson? How will you reteach to the students who didn’t understand? What about the middle of the pack? What’s the plan for making sure they get it without boring them?

Finally, here are some suggestions to make it exciting…

For those of you who watch the Pats game Sunday, you saw the Patriots dominate their half time formative assessments. Down 24-0 at halftime, Bill Belichick took the first half diagnosis and adjusted the game plan to win the game. Imagine if they didn’t take time to adjust? Our record would be 7-3 on the season and have to deal with how Peyton Manning is greater than Tom Brady. So thanks to formative assessments, we won a huge game in November.

Formative assessments are our game. Find out more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *