Constitutes Assessment? Why Is Assessment

“Summative assessments happen too far down the learning path to provide information at the classroom level and to make instructional adjustments and interventions during the learning process. It takes formative assessment to accomplish this” (Formative and summative assessments, 2010, NMSA). Yet summative assessment, such as midterms, finals, and standardized state tests, are a part of life that must be dealt with. These assessments are extremely important because of their influence on district funding, and also administrators and parents perceptions that the tests measure whether the school is doing its job or not, and conveying a good education to students. It is difficult not to become obsessed with them, given that ones performance as a teacher and quality as an educator is viewed through the rubric of standardized assessment.

The challenge for a teacher is to prepare students for the summative, standardized assessments they must cope with as a part of daily life, without losing sight of the need to provide individualized education to all students.

It is important that students are engaged with school on a daily basis, and not merely focused on one or two tests used for district benchmarking. Additionally, sometimes there is a temptation for teachers to mimic the format of standardized tests, even when providing formative assessments. Using creative assignments like portfolios, rewriting essays, open-ended experiments, and other challenges teach students how to think as well as to merely regurgitate learned facts and formulas. And hopefully, by sharpening students creative and critical minds, they will excel on standardized, summative assessments, even if teachers do not teach to the test.


Formative and summative assessments. (2010). National Middle School Association (NMSA).

Retrieved February 15, 2011 at

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