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Assessment of Learning (Summative Assessment)


Summative assessments are assessments of student learning. They are given at a point in time to measure the students’ achievement in relation to a clearly defined set of standards. These assessments are given after learning is supposed to occur. The results of these assessments have a variety of uses. They are used to report to the community the academic proficiency of students in both the community and the state. They are used to assist both school districts and the Department of Education in making decisions about the effectiveness of the curriculum used, the number of staff to hire, the goals of professional development, and budgetary needs. Students and parents use the information from these assessments to make personal decisions and set personal goals. Community members use the information for promotional and budgetary decisions. The following table provides examples of common assessments used in Iowa schools.


Summative Assessment Tips

  • Also, even though an item may be written well and aligned perfectly to the benchmark or learning target, students with prior knowledge about the subject may know of examples where another option could be correct. This could lead to an item biased against more knowledgeable students.
  • Be sure there is only one correct or best answer. After you have written the assessment item, a colleague can be asked to proof the assessment for one correct answer. Sometimes after spending time "wordsmithing" an item stem, more than one correct answer may appear.
  • Avoid using "which of the following" in the stem whenever possible. Adding a noun helps focus the student and makes connections to the response items. Example: "Which part of the cell controls entry into and out of the cell?"
  • Don’t repeat the same words in the response items. Instead, reword the item stem to remove the repetitive material.
  • Ask a complete question. This has the effect of focusing the student on the topic to be measured rather than on the response options.
  • Scoring guides/rubrics are developed to assess the following three qualities of student work: Accurate knowledge and understanding Sound reasoning Effective written communication Stiggins, R.J. 2006. Classroom Assessment for Student Learning, Portland, OR: Educational Testing Service.
  • When developing a summative assessment tool to use the following components: the learning goals/benchmarks to be assessed the relative importance of each benchmark the type of assessment item most appropriate to the learning goal/benchmark the cognitive level at which to assess each learning benchmark 
  • Keep the wording simple when writing test items for summative assessments. Use only the academic language used in the classroom during instruction. Aim for the lowest possible reading level. Work with the ELL and Special Education teachers to ensure that students understand the academic language used in tests items.

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on March 05, 2015 at 6:26am.