Formative Assessment System for Teachers

The Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST) (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) was developed at the University of Minnesota by Dr. David Weiss, professor for the Department of Psychology, and Dr. Theodore J. Christ, associate professor and director of Graduate Studies, Educational Psychology, and the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). The FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) program is a K-8 assessment progress monitoring tool which allows educators to analyze their learners’ literacy skills in accordance to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) consistently throughout the school year. Tri-annual assessment screenings in the program are given to learners in order to create weekly assessments that are progress monitored. All of the assessments learners take are automated, requiring the educator to spend more time interacting with data to guide their instruction and differentiate for their learners instead of spending more time with the assessments themselves.

Within the program, there are evidence-based assessments for all skill levels. For early primary grades, there are assessments, titled “earlyReading,” for: concepts of print, onset/initial sounds, letter names, letter sounds, rhyming, phoneme blending, phoneme segmenting, sight word fluency for 30 words, sight word fluency for 100 words, decodable word reading, decodable nonsense word reading, and sentence reading. The extension to earlyReading is Curriculum Based Measurement for Reading (CBM-Reading) to screen and progress monitor learners’ literacy skills for grades first through sixth. This facet of the program asks that the educator “listens and evaluates student performance while they read aloud from grade level passages for 1 minute” (Fastbridge, 2017, para. 2). CBM-Reading helps assess and facilitate reading comprehension. The final literacy section of FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) is Adaptive Assessment of Reading (aReading), which is adapted for struggling readers. “The type of questions and response format is substantially similar to many state-wide assessments (i.e., multiple choice, fill in the blank). Both auditory and visual stimuli are presented for each question” (Fastbridge, 2017, para. 2).

How To Use The Assessment With Learners

Early Reading

EarlyReading assessments are used to screen and monitor early primary grades. These “supplemental assessments are used to diagnose and evaluate skill deficits. Those results help guide instructional and intervention development” (Fastbridge, 2017, para. 4). The multiple assessments listed above are given to learners as needed for further support within weekly assessments. This allows for educators to progress monitor their learners and apply their understandings of the data to their teachings. The assessments are given by the educator or support staff to evaluate learners’ performances within the expected grade-level skills. Upon inputting and computing the results of each assessment in real-time, “reports are available to evaluate student performance against local norms, mastery criterion, and predictions of risk to meet proficiency standards on state tests” (Fastbridge, 2017, para. 10). Within the earlyReading assessments, learners are expected to have efficiency, fluency, and accuracy when reading.

Curriculum Based Measurement for Reading

CBM-Reading is an evidence-based assessment in which the “teacher listens and evaluates student performance while they read aloud from grade level passages for 1 minute” (Fastbridge, 2017, para. 2). The reading passages and evaluative tools are all within the FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) computer program, enabling educators to receive instant feedback as they log miscues as learners read the passages directly on the program itself. The scores from the learners will reflect words read correct per minute, which show how well learners identified words and read with efficiency. The score reports will show an overall summary of how learners are performing according to grade level expectations. Though there are tri-annual screenings, CBM-Reading accommodates weekly assessments for progress monitoring. These progress reports allow teachers to “evaluate instructional effects and determine if their investment in differentiated, individualized or supplemental instructional programs benefits the student” (Fastbridge, 2017, para. 6).

Adaptive Assessment of Reading

The aReading assessment “is based on ten years of research that built upon the recommendations of the National Reading Panel (2000). It is also cross-walked to the National Common Core Standards (2010)” (Fastbridge, 2017, para. 4). This assessment is individualized to each learner depending on their developmental level. It is computer automated, taking the learner approximately 15 minutes to complete independently. Like the assessment, the scoring is done automatically within the computer program so educators can instantly analyze data and receive recommendations from FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) on instructional support and ways to differentiate. Learners who would benefit from the aReading assessment are identified in the Fall when being first evaluated “in order to provide supplemental, differentiated, or individualized instruction” (Fastbridge, 2017, para. 6). Unlike eReading and CBM-Reading, aReading is used only a few times throughout the school year as it is not used for progress monitoring.

Interpreting Assessment Results With Learners

Like many standardized assessments, the FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) program enables educators and learners to see whether they are at high risk (learners who are “below the 15th percentile on FastBridge assessments are likely to be at high risk of current and later learning difficulties” (Fast for Teachers, 2017, para. 9)), some risk (“students with scores between the 15th and 40th percentiles” (Fast for Teachers, 2017, para. 8)), or at a low risk level. FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) assessment records breakdown each facet of the CCSS benchmarks throughout each tri-annual screening and weekly assessment for progress monitoring onto a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet shows each learner’s percentile rank, seasonal weekly growth, and overall weekly growth averages for the school year.

These assessment results make learners aware of what level of literacy skills they are at, as well as allow them to see their growth. Seeing and reflecting on their own growth is essential to helping learners gain confidence in learning, gain motivation for learning, and practice reflectiveness as learning. For educators, the breakdown of each learner’s skills can create a clear map of what skills they should be focusing on and how to differentiate. Along with that, FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) is continuing to work to provide instructional recommendations based on the outcomes of each assessment.

Data Driving Instructional Practices

With FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017), “educators are able to assess students on a continuous metric... The methodology allows the student’s skills to be evaluated relative to other grade levels, which is not currently provided by traditional assessments” (Office for Technology Commercialization, 2017, para. 6). In this fashion, educators are able to consistently be provided data while knowing their learners are being provided relevant assessments and instruction for support and growth. With these assessments being directly linked to the CCSS expectations and continuously evaluated, educators are able to continuously adapt their instruction to their learner’s needs, ensuring the implementation of relevant instruction. Continuous and relevant instruction and assessment also gives educators a multitude of data points that can be analyzed and considered, rather than only a few standardized assessment data points per school year.

Communicating Assessment Data

The assessment data records for FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) are plentiful and straightforward. FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) believes that the most effective way for parents and learners to understand and gain insight into what assessment data means is to provide a summary of the assessments given and their purpose. For the aReading assessments, the purpose is “to learn each student’s current reading skills and identify students who need additional reading instruction” (Brown, 2017, para. 3). The purpose of progress monitoring learners throughout the school year is “to track reading improvements for those students participating in extra reading instruction” (Brown, 2017, para. 4). Sharing results regarding assessments with parents and learners are important and necessary, as it is a piece of data that provides multiple snapshots of what level their children are performing at and guides the instruction they are receiving.


Though the FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) program is fairly new, it is continually being researched for and added to in order to provide more resources and support for educators. By utilizing the CCSS benchmarks, FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) maintains a relevant and reliable reflection of learners’ skill levels in literacy. This in turn allows educators to be provided with relevant and reliable data in order to guide their instruction and differentiate for their learners. Due to FAST (Fast Bridge Learning, 2017) having tri-annual benchmark assessments as well as weekly progress monitoring opportunities that are individualized per learner, this may be an option that schools could consider in place of the current tri-annual standardized assessments.

Brown, R. (2017, April). Benchmark goals for student success. Fastbridge School Support. 

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