• How do we measure what students are learning?

    Classroom assessments include a wide range of options ... from writing a simple comment in a student's agenda book, all the way to administering standardized and nationally normed exams. Evaluating student progress is most often divided into two main categories -- formative and summative assessments.

    Formative assessments are on-going assessments, reviews, and observations in a classroom. Teachers use formative assessment to improve instructional methods and provide students feedback throughout the teaching and learning process. For example, if a teacher observes that a student did not grasp a concept, he or she can design a review activity or use a different instructional strategy. Likewise, students can monitor their own progress with periodic quizzes and performance tasks. The results of formative assessments are used to modify and validate instruction.

    Summative assessments are typically used to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs and services at the end of an academic year or at a pre-determined time. The goal of summative assessments are to make judgments of student competency after an instructional phase is complete. For example, in Kentucky, the K-PREP (formally known as KCCT) is administered once a year, usually in late spring.  Summative evaluations are used to determine if students have mastered specific competencies and to identify instructional areas that need additional attention.

    Examples of formative and summative assessments can be found in the table below ...

    Formative Assessments
    Summative Assessments
    Simply posing questions within the classroom Final exams
    Anecdotal notes and comments Statewide tests (KPREP)
    Worksheets, quizzes, and chapter tests National tests (Stanford, EXPLORE, etc.)
    Diagnostic tests (MAP, GRADE/GMADE, etc.) Entrance exams (ACT and SAT)

    At James Madison, teachers use both formative and summative assessments to evaluate student progress throughout the school year.