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Standardized Assessments & Formative vs. Summative Evaluations

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  1. 0:19 Standardizing Assessments Defined
  2. 2:01 Achievement Assessments
  3. 3:21 Scholastic Aptitude Assessments
  4. 4:17 Specific Aptitude Assessments
  5. 5:15 School Readiness Assessments
  6. 6:07 Choosing Standardized Assessments
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Taught by

Melissa Hurst

If you have ever attended a public school or college you have been subjected to a form of standardized assessment. These assessments serve multiple purposes and provide valuable information regarding one's abilities, understanding and potential. This lesson will introduce you to the types of standardized assessments commonly used in schools and discuss two other types of assessments: formative and summative.

Testing Time

Student: It's testing time again. We are expected to come to school early, eat a good breakfast, and get a good night's sleep. Why do we take these assessments every year? Who creates them and what purpose do they serve?

Standardized Assessments Defined

Expert: Standardized assessments are assessments constructed by experts and published for use in many different schools and classrooms.

Student: What are the different uses for standardized assessments?

Expert: Standardized assessments are very common and can be used for several purposes.

  • They can be used to evaluate a student's understanding and knowledge for a particular area.
  • They can be used to evaluate admissions potential for a student in grade school or college.
  • They can be used to assess language and technical skill proficiency.
  • Standardized assessments are often used to determine psychological services.
  • They are even used to evaluate aptitude for a career in the armed forces.

Standardized Assessment Qualities

Student: Okay, I get that they are used all the time for a variety of reasons. My next question is how are they standardized?

Expert: Standardized assessments have several qualities that make them unique and standard. First, all students taking the particular assessment are given the same instructions and time limit. Instructional manuals typically accompany the assessment so teachers or proctors know exactly what to say. Second, the assessments contain the same or very similar questions. Third, the assessments are scored, or evaluated, with the same criteria.

Standardized Assessment Types

Student: You mentioned that there are different types of standardized assessments. What are they?

Expert: Yes, there are four main types of standardized assessments used by school districts. They are achievement assessments, scholastic aptitude and intelligence assessments, specific aptitude assessments and school readiness assessments.

Achievement Assessments

Expert: Achievement assessments are designed to assess how much students have learned from classroom instruction. Assessment items typically reflect common curriculum used throughout schools across the state or nation. For example, a history assessment might contain items that focus on national history rather than history distinct to a particular state or county. Some familiar achievement assessments you may have heard of include the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales (used to assess IQ) and the National Assessment of Education Progress (referred to as NAEP).

There are advantages to achievement assessments. First, achievement assessments provide information regarding how much a student has learned about a subject. These assessments also provide information on how well students in one classroom compare to other students. They also provide a way to track student progress over time.

There are some disadvantages to achievement assessments as well. Achievement assessments do not indicate how much a student has learned for a particular area within the subject. For example, the assessment may indicate a relative understanding of math, but will not indicate if a student knows how to use a particular equation taught in the classroom.

Scholastic Aptitude Assessments

Expert: Scholastic aptitude assessments are designed to assess a general capacity to learn and used to predict future academic achievement. Scholastic aptitude assessments may assess what a student is presumed to have learned in the past. These assessments include vocabulary terms presumably encountered over the years and analogies intended to assess how well students can recognize similarities among well-known relationships. The most common type of these assessments is the SAT.

The advantages of scholastic aptitude assessments are that the same test allows for comparison of multiple students across schools and states. There is also a disadvantage; some students develop test anxiety and do not perform well on standardized scholastic assessments, causing the results to be an inaccurate reflection of the student's actual or potential academic abilities.

Specific Aptitude Assessments

Expert: Specific aptitude assessments are designed to predict future ability to succeed in a particular content domain. Specific aptitude assessments may be used by school personnel to select students for specific instructional programs or remediation programs. They may also be used for counseling students about future educational plans and career choices. One commonly used assessment to evaluate one's aptitude for a career in the armed forces is the ASVAB.

With specific aptitude assessments, usually, one's ability to learn in a specific discipline is stable, and therefore, these types of assessments are an effective way to identify academic tendencies and weaknesses. The disadvantage, however, is that the use of these assessments encourages specific skill development in a few areas, opposed to encouraging the development of skills in a wide range of academic disciplines and abilities.

School Readiness Assessments

Expert: Finally, we have the school readiness assessment. School readiness assessments are designed to assess cognitive skills important for success in a typical kindergarten or first grade curriculum. These assessments are typically given six months before a child enters school.

The advantage with these assessments is that they provide information regarding developmental delays that need to be addressed immediately. There are disadvantages to school readiness assessments as well. First, the evaluation has been found to have low correlation with the student's actual academic performance beyond the first few months of school. Second, school readiness assessments usually only evaluate cognitive development. However, social and emotional development is critical to one's success in kindergarten and first grade.

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