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Common Formative Assessments 2.0

Common Formative Assessments 2.0
How Teacher Teams Intentionally Align Standards, Instruction, and Assessment

First Edition

November 2014 | 304 pages | Corwin

Upgrade your CFAs using CFA 2.0

Common Formative Assessments 2.0 presents a powerful, research-based process for improving teaching and student learning that is applicable to all standards, all grades, and all content areas. CFA 2.0 is so much more than assessment design. It shows teachers how they can intentionally align standards, instruction, assessment, and data analysis in every unit of study. The CFA 2.0 process is not limited to assessment design only. Rather, it is a system of intentionally aligned components (standards, instruction, assessments, and data analysis) that all work together to improve student learning. 


Even a timeless process needs to remain timely. This expanded, all-new edition of the definitive guide to common formative assessments features new field research and proven strategies that will enable educators to make more accurate inferences about student understanding so they can adjust instruction to improve student learning.  


Readers will learn to

  • Build the “highway” to aligned assessments
  • Use the CFA 2.0 design steps to upgrade their own assessments
  • Decide the learning intentions and student success criteria for a unit of study
  • Evaluate and revise assessment questions for quality
  • Plan the learning progressions for students to attain the learning intentions
  • Create quick progress checks to coincide with the learning progressions
  • Use assessment results as feedback to adjust instruction and student learning strategies
  • Gain new knowledge and skills for creating, revising, and improving grade- and course-level common formative assessments


Author Larry Ainsworth provides busy educators and leaders with a practical, how-to guide filled with information, examples, and action steps to assist all K–12 grade- and course-level teams in making this completely re-envisioned process their own.

About the Authors
Chapter 1 A Highway to Aligned Assessments
Chapter 2 Assessment Literacy 2.0
Chapter 3 Overview of the CFA 2.0 Design Steps
Chapter 4 Priority Standards and Learning Intentions
Chapter 5 “Unwrapping,” Big Ideas, and Essential Questions
Chapter 6 Unit Learning Intentions and Student Success Criteria
Chapter 7 Writing Assessment Questions in Multiple Formats
Chapter 8 Scoring Guides: Detailed Success Criteria
Chapter 9 Evaluating Quality of CFA 2.0 Questions
Chapter 10 Learning Progressions and Quick Progress Checks
Chapter 11 Collaborative Scoring and Analysis of CFA 2.0 Results
Chapter 12 Success Criteria for CFA 2.0 Design Teams
Chapter 13 Effective Implementation of Common Formative Assessments
Chapter 14 Creating a Culture of Improvement

"Formative assessment’s essence is its reliance on evidence-informed judgments about the need for instructional adjustments. Ainsworth relied on an analogous strategy in refining the recommendations he made in 2006 regarding common formative assessments. Based on nearly a decade’s worth of real-world evidence obtained by watching educators implement those earlier suggestions, Ainsworth has clearly refined his thinking about group-guided formative assessment. To most of us, a designation of 2.0 represents a “new and improved” version of whatever’s being described. Well, in every sense of its definitely deserved designation, this powerful book represents Common Formative Assessments 2.0."


W. James Popham
Professor Emeritus, UCLA

“One of the hardest tasks for teachers is to align pre- and post- classroom assessments to best measure the change or progress made between two occasions.  Such assessments need to have questions anchored on a common scale (i.e., whatever is measured on each occasion should be the same construct) and anchored on a common difficulty scale.  Larry Ainsworth spells out how classroom teachers can work together to create such tasks, which allows a major focus, as it should, on using progress to help monitor learning and adapt teaching.

The new material in this book is critical to its value:  Ainsworth introduces constructive alignment of learning objectives, standards, success criteria, classroom and larger-scale assessments, and emphasizes the quality of assessments leading to excellent diagnostic interpretations of data. He does not ask teachers to do all this alone but in a community of experts led by instructional leaders (the chapter on PLCs is worth buying the book in itself). He does all of this with the intention of maximizing our positive impact on student learning.

There have been many who have written about the power of success criteria, growth and progress, and assessment for teachers, but not how to do it. Ainsworth spells it out to perfection.  It seems so obvious—create the pre- and post- measures as part of the lesson planning, then make the links between pre- and post- and this is the learning progression.  So why do we not do this? Because it requires a major transformation in how we think about our role—no  longer just teach and then see how well the students listened to us by creating an assessment at the end focused on what we covered. Changing this thinking is the power of this book.

There are so many gems in this book. For example, Ainsworth is not talking about ‘tests’ but about ‘tasks,’ which opens up so many more possibilities. The sections on the qualities of measures are directed to classroom tasks, and the many varied examples based on the Common Core will make it so much more practicable for teachers using those standards to implement many of the major purposes of the nationally consistent curriculum.”

John Hattie
Professor of Education and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia
Key features
  • A new, updated volume that shows educators and leaders how the process of using informal, ongoing assessments for learning at the classroom level can serve as quick but valuable measures of students’ progress toward attainment of whichever standards are in current instructional focus.
  • Explicit connections to CCSS, SBAC, and PARCC but with clear message that CFA content and process remain applicable to all standards, all grades, all content areas
  • Inclusion of the central role of the student in the assessment process
  • Addition of new and updated assessment research

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