A 21st Century Assessment System Must Include Both Formative and Summative Assessment

The 21st century will usher in a new era for how teachers utilize assessment systems. The new model will include both summative and formative assessment. In contrast to summative assessment, formative assessment is more focused on collaboration in the classroom and identifying learning gaps that can be addressed before the end-of-year assessments.

This section of the NCDPI website has been developed in an effort to provide North Carolina teachers with a basic understanding of formative assessment and illustrate the role it could play in a comprehensive, balanced assessment system. The tools and strategies contained on these web pages are intended to serve as a primer for teachers wishing to learn more about how formative assessment could impact their instruction and help their students achieve targeted learning goals.

A comprehensive balanced assessment system includes classroom assessments, interim/benchmark assessments, and statewide assessments that are aligned to state standards. Each component is important and should be valued for what it contributes.

A comprehensive balanced assessment system

Formative Assessment

A process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to help students improve their achievement of intended instructional outcomes.

Formative Assessment includes:

  • Questioning
  • Discussions
  • Learning Activities
  • Feedback
  • Conferences
  • Interviews
  • Student Reflections

Formative assessment is found at the classroom level and happens minute-to-minute or in short cycles. Formative assessment is not graded or used in accountability systems. The feedback involved in formative assessment is descriptive in nature so that students know what they need to do next to improve learning.

Summative Assessment

A measure of achievement to provide evidence of student competence or program effectiveness.

Summative Assessment includes:

  • Selected Response Items
    • Multiple-Choice
    • True/False
    • Matching
  • Short Answer
    • Fill in the Blank
    • 1-2 Sentence Response
  • Extended Written Response
  • Performance Assessment

Summative assessments are found at the classroom, district and state level and can be graded and used in accountability systems. The information gathered from summative assessments is evaluative and is used to categorize students so performance among students can be compared.