2017–2018: What We’ve Been Up To and Where We Are Headed

By Kevin Mcfarland (Co-Founder Formative)

I wanted to personally reach out now that the craziness of the first weeks of school is starting to settle down. If you’ve been with us for a while, you may have noticed many updates to the site, the inclusion of Premium Upgrades, and, sadly, more than our fair share of bugs. Hopefully this message will give more clarity into the work we’ve been doing behind the scenes and into why you’ve seen some of the changes you have.

The Beginning of the School Year & Our Focus on Stability

First and foremost, I and the entire team at Formative are so grateful for the swell of interest we’ve received from teachers everywhere, and we’re also extremely sorry for coming up short in multiple ways. As a team of former educators, we know how harmful even the smallest disruption can be to a classroom. Sadly, the issues over the past month were larger and more frequent than they should have been. So what happened?

Simply put, we didn’t anticipate the number of teachers and students that would use the platform simultaneously and we weren’t setup correctly ahead of time. A few core technologies we were using limited the amount of information that could flow at any given time, so the pipeline clogged very quickly. We worked hard and fast to either move away from these or improve their configurations, depending on the situation.

With that, I could not be more proud of our team and the response of our educators. With your help, we’ve remedied the worst of these issues, sped up response times, and have stabilized performance across devices. Things still aren’t perfect, but they’re consistent and we couldn’t have done it without you. All in all, we’ve made just over 300 updates to the site since the beginning of the school year.

Our Commitment to Privacy and Focus on Driving Research in Education

I hope that you have come to find our platform is geared toward advancing the use of technology in a thoughtful manner in classrooms, while meeting them where they are right now. Through our time at UCLA and since, we have put a major focus on research-backed development. Today, we are taking this further.

With the support of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, we have partnered with the American Institute of Research and the Jefferson Education Accelerator to research what we call “Formative Teaching”. This is the act of utilizing data from everyday activities to drive interventions and strategy without taking the time from the classroom to do a separate assessment.

We hope to publish the findings of our research after this school year so that it will provide a valuable set of data for any educator’s pedagogic strategy. To allow for this and other work with research organizations, we have updated our Privacy Policy at www.goformative.com/privacy. If you read this, you will find that it does not affect any student data in any way and we will be extremely protective of any other information shared with these organizations.

Along with research, we in general wanted to show our commitment to keeping your students’ information safe so this summer, we signed the Student Data Privacy Pledge! This is a great movement that many ed-tech companies have joined and we’re so happy to be a part of it.

We know how important this is for schools and administrators as well, so we implore you to share this with your team either as they dive into our platform or discuss privacy in general. And if you’re proud to be a part of this with us, please feel free to share it on social media using this image!


Now that things are back on track, we are continuing our push toward an expanded feature set and a more robust platform not only for your classroom, but for your school. This is why you’ve likely seen more “nudges” toward our Premium solution. But before going into what that is, I want to let you know what it means to us.

Why We’ve Introduced a Premium Option and What Premium Means for You

Premium means the opportunity to sustain our platform for any teacher in the world. It also means the ability to expand our team, our vision, and continue making an amazing platform to help you help your students grow. My Co-Founder and I began building Formative from graduate school in UCLA only a few years ago and are so excited to be helping so many classrooms around the US and the world.

So you may have missed the announcement during the summer, but we wanted to officially introduce you to our Premium Teacher and School/District Licenses! I’ll explain some core details here, but you can also learn more at goformative.com/pricing.

The goal of this package is to help you:

  • Align formative assessments and other activities to standards
  • Track student growth across any daily activity that you’re already doing
  • Use daily data to drive your strategy more responsively, instead of waiting for the big tests
  • Gain deeper insights into student thinking and better prepare for testing through new Advanced Question Types

Two changes that some of our long-time users probably noticed are the new limitations on Upload & Transformation of documents and on the Exporting of results from a formative. These features in particular have a cost associated to every time a teacher uses them, and we decided to instill the limits after much debate. Limiting these became one of the most important pieces to making the free tool sustainable. We have promised to keep the core of Formative free any way we can, and upgrades by educators and schools are making that future a reality.

But we don’t want you to think that all of the updates and benefits are only going to those that upgrade. We asked for your feedback on what order to build these features, and as a big Thank You, we want to give something to all of our educators:

  • Multiple Selection Questions will be available for Free!

We asked your opinion and the most requested Advanced Question Type was the Multiple Selection question. As you may have noticed, we’ve decided to include this in the free version for all educators. We know that this is one of the most important of those question types for the end of the year, and we hope this will help out those who don’t have the opportunity to upgrade.

Thank You

Once again, thank you so much for being a part of this journey with us. Whether you utilize our free platform, upgrade to premium, or our research helps your school, we strive to help your classroom in whatever ways we can. This year has surely started with a bang, and we’re looking forward to growing with you and your students through the remainder.


One last note (sorry for ending on a cliffhanger); Please keep a lookout for an exciting announcement in the coming days!