Prioritizing Math Assessment: Formative, Summative and Beyond

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Assessment is a fundamental component of the educational process, offering teachers valuable insights into student learning and helping  to identify the best ways to address student learning gaps. Striking the right balance among different types of assessments is crucial for promoting effective teaching and learning. ASSISTments provides teachers with the tools they need to create and assign all types of assessments and get immediate, actionable data they can use to address student needs at every step of the learning process. We connected with four ASSISTments Teachers to share the ways they use the platform to support their assessment routines.

Formative Assessment: The Ongoing Feedback Loop

Formative assessments are the most important type of assessments and include everything from diagnostics that illuminate student knowledge prior to new instruction, checks for understanding during instruction, and assessments that measure the success of instructional interventions.Benchmark and interim assessments can be used to gauge a school or district’s overall progress and identify areas in need of intervention. They also help identify where students are struggling and where adjustments to instruction might be needed. Think of them as the continuous nudges that keep both students and teachers on track.  When used effectively, they create a classroom environment that supports learning growth among all students. 

Dana Nelson, Grade 6, Bermudian Spring Middle School

“I use ASSISTments data from Illustrative Mathematics Readiness Checks to diagnose what skills students are coming in with and where they might need more support during each unit.”

Quinta Thompson, Grade 8, Iberia Middle School

“I primarily utilize ASSISTments for formative assessment by assigning quick checks for understanding.  I like that students are provided with feedback and are assigned redo problems [for additional practice when they answer incorrectly]”

Kim Gray, Grades 7-8, Queensbury Middle School

 “I can assign quick opening and closing questions and review the data in ASSISTments to ensure that students are with me and if they are not, I can do something about it.  The data provides a lot of information.”

Summative Assessment: The Culminating Evaluation

Summative assessments are the grand finale of the assessment spectrum. They evaluate the overall learning outcome at the end of a unit, semester, or school year. They often take the form of final exams, standardized tests, or end-of-year projects. While they offer a comprehensive view of what students have learned, their primary function is to summarize learning outcomes and provide accountability at the end of a defined period. They help stakeholders determine if the curriculum has met its intended goals and whether additional support is needed.

Rich Hollon, Grade 5, Cambridge Elementary School

“I use ASSISTments for all Mid-Module and End of Module Assessments from EngageNY.  As we approach the end of the year, I will also use other assessments available in ASSISTments as practice exams to prepare the students for their end of year assessments.”

State Assessments: Aligning understanding with state standards

State assessments play a significant role in the educational landscape, as they are used to measure the effectiveness of educational programs and determine accountability. While standardized tests have their place, they should not overshadow other forms of assessment. A balanced approach ensures that students are prepared for state assessments while also receiving ongoing feedback and learning opportunities. ASSISTments provides a variety of released state practice tests to support teachers in ensuring students are well prepared for state assessments. 

The Need for a Balanced Assessment Approach

While each type of assessment serves a unique purpose, none should be emphasized at the expense of the others. Striking the right balance between formative and summative assessments before, during and after instruction is essential for meeting the needs of all students. A balanced approach ensures that educators don't just teach the test but provide continuous student support and feedback, adapting their strategies to meet individual student needs. Implementing both formative and summative assessment also ensures that learners have a clear understanding of their progress and the learning journey ahead.ASSISTments teachers can assign formative assessments from their OER curriculum or make custom standard's aligned problem sets that provide opportunities for practice and measurement of student learning during the lesson.  For summative assessments, teachers can do the same things but at the end of a lesson or unit to gauge if students met their learning goals.  Being able to assign standards-aligned problems means teachers can also create diagnostic/benchmark or interim assessments that target student knowledge on high leverage standards.  And there are several features that can help teachers curate the assessment environment to meet their needs in any of these contexts.

Quinta Thompson, Grade 8, Iberia Middle School

“I also incorporate ASSISTments into my homework as an intervention because the immediate feedback helps students persevere when working independently.”

Dana Nelson, Grade 6, Bermudian Spring Middle School

“I use daily checks for understanding and Skillbuilders in ASSISTments to give students a chance to show off their understanding and use the data to identify individual student needs…as we progress through each unit.”

Rich Hollon, Grade 5, Cambridge Elementary School

“I love that ASSISTments allows students to get multiple attempts on assessments so they have a chance to practice repeatedly on the same problem”

Kim Gray, Grades 7-8, Queensbury Middle School

“ASSISTments is user friendly and allows me to create custom problem sets that feature problems which were most challenging to students throughout the school year so they can get additional opportunities to show growth.”

Valid Assessments = Valuable Insights

Assessments, regardless of their type, must be valid and reliable to yield valuable insights. Validity means that an assessment measures what it is intended to measure, while reliability ensures that results are consistent and dependable. Valid assessments give educators confidence that the insights they gain are accurate and meaningful. In contrast, poorly designed or invalid assessments can lead to incorrect conclusions, which may hinder student progress and the effectiveness of the educational system.

Striking the right balance in math assessment involves using formative, interim/benchmark, and summative assessments in harmony to create a well-rounded and effective educational experience. By recognizing the unique purposes of each assessment type and ensuring their validity, educators can provide valuable insights into student performance and foster an environment that promotes growth, learning, and success.

Hear from Nikki Scheib, Instructional Coach and Middle School Math Teacher, on how she uses ASSISTments in her daily routine to easily capture learning data for students.

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