Sunday, September 7, 2014

Have 'summative' assessments become obsolete?

We hear the terms 'formative' and 'summative' assessments all the time in schools.

As educators, we learned about the differences while in college in our education preparation courses.

We now talk all the time about using assessments to 'drive' our instruction and provide guidance on where students are in the learning process.

I'm struggling though with how these terms are actually being implemented in classrooms with real teachers and real students...

To ensure we are all on the same page here with definitions, here is an image:

Formative assessments are a part of the learning process while summative assessments are an end to the learning process.

So, if we are formatively assessing students frequently throughout the learning process and constantly getting temperature checks on where they are in the learning process, we will eventually have students all over the place in terms of their learning.

We know students don't learn at the same rate and pace and we know students need frequent and timely feedback to assist them in the learning process.

We also know that if we are formatively assessing then we will always know where students are in terms of their learning.

So my questions are simple...

Why do we still need summative assessments to tell us what we already know? If we are frequently formatively assessing, then we already know where the students are... so what's the point of the summative assessment? What's the point of giving an assessment if we know the students aren't ready for it yet? And on the flipside, what's the point of giving an assessment when we know the students already have it mastered?

Why do we have every student do a summative assessment on the same date when we know every kid isn't at the same place in terms of their learning?

And lastly, why do we make each summative assessment exactly the same for every student when we know students need multiple platforms and multiple venues to demonstrate their learning?

I also recently read an article, 'Stop telling students to study for exams,' and it really reinforced my thinking...

So, in closing, have 'summative' assessments become obsolete? What do you think...?