When testing becomes superfluous…

So my colleague was commenting about another teacher complaining that the test was all procedure and no processing…. 

Let me back up a little. Formative assessment is constant, very informal, and is, at its heaviest, a quiz. Summative assessment, on the other hand, is very formal, comes at specific breaks in the unit and at the end, and is administered to all classes in the same curriculum. Once the curriculum summative is created, it is provided to each teacher. In the above instance, the teachers was complaining to the curriculum chair about the current test.

My colleague felt this teacher should have known the purpose for the summative: our summatives were just testing practice for the course final. 

I admit I was caught off guard- I didn’t know this was the purpose of our summatives either!

The argument made to me was “we really shouldn’t need to “test” (summative with a capital S) children unless they were making up material or they were remediating…” Huh?

It got me thinking about the true purpose of testing. If we are truly teaching for understanding, then testing is really superfluous, isn’t it? They will use the knowledge regularly, without the need to answer poorly constructed, artificial situations that are designed to test what they don’t know, with trick answers that are designed with the errors that are “usually” made by “most” students. There is something stinky about assessments with test banks so protected that they are secured better than banks! 

So let’s talk about how we, as teachers, can make summative testing truly superfluous.


2 thoughts on “When testing becomes superfluous…

  1. You got me thinking about the “high stakes testing” from SBAC and PARCC. I found the following sample question https://howardat58.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/sb-8-12-0.jpg
    which is a very clever question, but as a multiple choice it is failing desperately to get the info about how the student got the answer – which would distinguish the thinking ones.
    On the other hand, human marking as described in Todd Farley’s book, “Making The Grades”, is so scary as to be unbelievable. i could go on, but most of it is unprintable !

    1. Multiple choice answers, carefully constructed will be those that are wrong for specific error-related reasons, but the fact of the matter is that many students guess when faced with multiple choice, especially if they look at the question and can’t choose the correct strategy for answering. I would have preferred the question to ask: how would you find the length of…..
      Constructed response is harder to grade, and cannot be done without really good 1) knowledge of the field; 2) an understanding of how kids think; and 3) being trained to look for knowledge in statements written by students that may not look anything like the answer in the “book.”

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