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.