Formative and summative assessments in classrooms

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Garrison, C. & Ehringhaus, M. (2009, June). Formative and summative assessments in the classroom. Middle School Journal, 40(5). Retrieved June 18, 2009, from The authors begin this article by discussing what a broad term assessment is and how educators should view their own classroom tests as assessments which provide essential information about students’ achievement and where any gaps in learning may occur. Summative assessments are administered to students at certain times to find out what skills students already know and to find out those skills that they do not know. Some examples of summative assessments are: state assessments, district benchmark or interim assessments, end-of-unit or chapter tests, end-of-term or semester exams, and AYP report card grades. Summative assessments can act as tools to assist in evaluating the effectiveness of programs, school improvement goals set, alignment of curriculum, or student placement in programs. One major drawback of summative assessments is that they happen too late in the school year to offer information for classrooms, individualize learning, and provide student interventions. In contrast, formative assessment is a part of the instructional process and is able to provide essential leaning and teaching information to educators. Formative assessments help to provide educators with more timely information where learning adjustments can be made more immediately. The results of formative assessments can help to guide teachers in knowing where they need to take their instruction next, depending on student learning and understanding of previously learned skills and concepts. Formative assessment also allows teachers to involve students in their own learning through descriptive feedback as to their progress. Some instructional
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