School year-end assessments can be an intimidating time for students. Many students struggle with anxiety and stress over these tests, and their study habits can be affected by it.
The goal of these new tests is to provide within-year growth data for teachers and parents. This will help them see where their students are at the beginning and end of the school year.
1. End-of-Semester Tests
Students in high schools and colleges take end-of-semester tests, also known as final exams. These tests, often written in mid-December and mid-April (in the fall and spring semesters), are summative assessments that require students to apply knowledge accumulated through the course of study in a specific context. Whether it’s an essay or a multiple-choice test, students are asked to bring together the skills learned in class and show what they have learned.
As a result of these assessments, teachers receive essential information about their students’ understanding and mastery. These results can help them meet students where they are with appropriately paced curricula and differentiated instruction. These results can also identify areas where additional support is needed.
While many schools are considering eliminating or scaling back statewide exams, it is still essential for educators to have accurate and timely data to make instructional decisions. As the 2022-2023 school year progresses, leaders will continue to examine how annual statewide assessments can best serve their educational community.
These statewide tests are typically designed to provide information about student progress over time and across grades, subjects, and schools. They can be administered in two different models: Instructionally Embedded or Year-End. Each state determines which model will be used and which subject areas will be assessed.
Both types of statewide assessments require educators to dedicate considerable resources and time to administering the assessments, scoring them, and interpreting their results. The reviews can also disrupt the regular flow of instruction for days or weeks. For example, a teacher may need to reschedule classroom activities to accommodate statewide assessments.
A recent UC Berkeley article highlights the stress that can be associated with final exams and concludes with recommendations for how to improve the exam experience. These include soliciting questions from students, providing feedback on their performance in a timely manner, and taking the time to make sure students understand the exam requirements.
While it is easy to get caught up on the negative aspects of final exams, they do play a critical role in student learning. They can indeed be difficult for both students and teachers, but they are the best way to assess what students have really learned. For students to be ready for college, they must learn how to take cumulative assessments that require them to draw on knowledge accumulated over the entire academic year.
2. End-of-Year Tests
The end of the school year comes with a wealth of assessment information that can sometimes be overwhelming to understand. Depending on your child’s grade level, you may be receiving standardized tests that span days or even weeks. These tests can be stressful for students, especially if they are struggling academically or have test anxiety. These exams are also known as summative assessments, as they are one-time evaluations that determine whether or not a student has learned the necessary skills for their specific grade level.
While summative assessments are an essential part of the school year, educators also utilize formative and interim assessments throughout the year. Interim assessments are short and more targeted than summative assessments, and they can reveal knowledge gaps or areas where students lack the necessary skills to be successful in a particular subject. These assessments can help teachers pinpoint academic need areas for their students and focus instruction accordingly.
A benchmark test is a type of formative assessment that compares your child’s performance to their peers of the same grade or age. This can be an excellent way for parents to gauge their child’s progress and see if they are above, on, or below the grade level in language arts and math.
Standardized test scores are based on the percentage of questions that are answered correctly and can be compared to a national average. The most commonly used standardized tests are the Smarter Balanced Language Arts and Math assessments, but there are other testing options available for your children, such as IOWA Assessment, TerraNova, or Stanford Achievement Tests (SAT).
While standardized test scores can be confusing to decipher, it’s important to remember that they don’t necessarily mean that your child has failed. A standardized test is designed to be fair and allows you to draw comparisons between your child’s score and their peers in the same grade or age group. This is what makes them more accurate and meaningful than a classroom assessment that assigns a pass or fail grade. If you are confused about your child’s standardized test results, speak with their teacher or school principal. They should be able to explain them to you in detail.
3. Summative Assessments
Summative assessments come at the end of a unit, semester, or year of study and serve as pure evaluations of content mastery. They are often characterized as high stakes, contributing to a significant portion of a student’s course grade (e.g., a final exam) or even to a more extensive educational goal (e.g., licensure tests, standardized exams like the SAT). They are generally formally graded and offer little opportunity to provide students with feedback before they receive their results.
However, there are many ways that faculty can incorporate formative assessment into their summative assessments to create a more balanced evaluation of learning. Using multiple-choice questions that are carefully written to support learning rather than simply evaluating memorization or allowing students the option to submit a project instead of an essay can reduce anxiety and increase the accuracy of evaluation. Providing students with detailed rubrics can help them understand how their performance will be assessed and prevent confusion over expectations. Creating opportunities for peer feedback throughout the process, especially for large projects or papers, can help learners build skills in giving and receiving constructive criticism before they complete their summative assignments.
In addition, tying summative assessments to specific learning goals and content can give instructors more granular performance data that can improve the quality of their exams and help students better focus their study efforts. Finally, by administering interim assessments throughout the year and analyzing the data, educators can establish more meaningful benchmarks to measure student progress and ensure their students are on track for success.
It’s important to remember that a balanced approach to assessment is the most effective way to promote learning. Formative assessment provides an excellent risk-free environment for students to experiment with and develop their skills, while summative assessments provide valuable milestones at the end of an element of study that can inform the next steps. In this way, both types of evaluations are integral to a student’s learning journey and can be used effectively in conjunction and in alignment with each other. To learn more about how to leverage summative and formative assessment in your classroom, download the free guide: A Balanced Approach to Assessment.
4. Progress Monitoring
Educators often turn to progress monitoring as an effective way to assess student growth over a school year. However, to truly make this formative assessment a helpful tool, educators must first ensure that the estimates are valid and reliable.
This means that the assessment should be clear and aligned with standards and instruction. The reviews should also provide results in a timely manner so that teachers can act on the data. Additionally, the assessments mustn’t be so long that they take away valuable instructional time.
When educators have this type of data, they can better identify students who may be struggling and determine which instruction will best serve their needs. As a result, the student will be more likely to grow and learn in a supportive environment.
To make progress monitoring meaningful, teachers must reflect on the data and use it to inform their decisions about future instruction. This self-reflection should include feedback from students, families, and colleagues. This will help teachers make improvements to their practice, which may consist of changing the types of assessments used or adjusting how frequently they collect this data.
A key aspect of progress monitoring is that the teacher should regularly communicate these results to students and families. This allows families to understand the student’s learning journey, which can help them support their child at home. It can also open up a dialogue with parents about how the student is doing and encourage them to ask questions.
When progress monitoring is used effectively, it can lead to more individualized instruction and better student outcomes. When educators use the data to inform their decision-making, they can redirect their students’ learning, which will ultimately promote student growth and achievement.
With Prodigy Math and Prodigy English, we have taken this concept of identifying student needs and differentiating instruction to the next level. Our adaptive assessments are quick, easy, and convenient to administer – all at no cost to your district! Check out the free demo and start discovering what your students know right away.