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Study: Parents, Teachers Favor Formative Over Summative Tests

A new survey finds that parents, teachers, and school district administrators find far more value in formative and interim tests than they do in summative assessments. You can read the highlights of the report in my story.

The main themes, from all three groups surveyed, are pretty straightforward: Tests are valuable to us when they let us know how well students are learning and what kinds of help they need, and when they let us know that stuff quickly. And it's formative and interim tests—not so much the year-end summative tests—that do this best, the survey respondents said.

Something intriguing that I couldn't fit into the story, though, is that folks are pretty confused about the three types of testing. They seem to have a basic grasp on the difference between gauging learning after teaching is done and gauging it while it's going on. But much beyond that, there is some real muddy water.

Take a look at Page 21 of the survey report (the link is in my story, above). Researchers presented teachers and district administrators with five testing scenarios and asked them to say whether they were formative, interim, or summative tests. No more than 60 percent categorized any one of the testing-type scenarios correctly.

"There is little clarity among teachers and district administrators about the standard types and purposes of different assessments," the report says. "Do teachers and district administrators have the knowledge and skills they need to put different assessments to their best use?"

Good question, and highly relevant as the assessment landscape is being reshaped.

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