If we’re living up to the promise of teaching
every student, we could turn all summative
assessments into formative ones.
my thing” when it comes to either. We
need honest, useful reports of student
performance on standards and outcomes. Our students’ futures depend
on it. EL
Effective assessment is revelatory;
it reveals the student’s story. Students
need a safe place to tell that story
reassessment. The use of formal let-
ter grades and judgment symbols are
appropriate for such assessments.
1The categories used here come from
Stiggins, R. J., Arter, J. A., Chappuis, J.,
& Chappuis, S. (2004). Classroom assessment for student learning (p. 289). Boston:
and receive helpful feedback on its
Interestingly, if we’re living up to the
unfolding. For that feedback to be use-
promise of teaching every student, not
ful, we limit judgment and evaluation.
just the easy ones, we could turn all
Bailey, J. M., & Guskey, T. R. (2001).
We reflect back to students how they
summative assessments into formative
Developing grading and reporting systems
performed on assessments and then
for student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA:
ones. The only reason students can’t
help them compare their performances redo a final exam, project, or standard-
Bailey, J. M., & Mc Tighe, J. (1996). Report-
to standards of excellence set for those
ized test after they receive feedback and
ing achievement at the secondary school
tasks. If we grade the formative steps
that students take as they wrestle with
new learning, every formative assess-
ment becomes a final judgment, with no
chance for revision and improvement.
revise their learning is that someone in a
policy-making capacity declared it so—
not because it’s bad pedagogy.
We Owe Them This
level: What and how? In T. R. Guskey
(Ed.), Communicating student learning:
ASCD yearbook 1996. Alexandria, VA:
Carifio, J., & Carey, T. (2009). A critical
examination of current minimum grading
Feedback is diminished, and learning
To be useful then, formative and
summative reports must be distinct
from one another. We set up grade
When did we drift into grades of
unquestioned provenance becoming the
legitimate currency for the next genera-
tion? And why do we succumb to the
notion that because something is easy
policy recommendations. The High School
Journal, 93( 1), 23–37.
Guskey, T. (1996). Reporting student learning: Lessons from the past—prescriptions
for the future. In T. R. Guskey (Ed.),
Communicating student learning: ASCD
books in two sections, formative and
to calculate it must be pedagogically
yearbook 1996. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
summative; or we label each assessment sound?
Marzano, R. (2000). Transforming classroom
with an “F” or “S”; or we color-code
With accountability measures on the
grading. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
O’Connor, K. (2009). How to grade for learn-
assessments accordingly, such as red for rise and both businesses and colleges
ing: Linking grades to standards. Thousand
formative and green for summative. An
questioning the validity of the modern
Oaks, CA: Corwin.
assessment is formative or summative
high school diploma, grading and
O’Connor, K. (2010). A repair kit for grading:
depending on when we give it and how standards are now under intense
15 fixes for broken grades. Boston: Pearson.
we use the resulting data.
scrutiny. We can no longer afford the
Reeves, D. B. (2004). The case against the
Most formative assessments provide
zero. Phi Delta Kappan, 86( 4), 324–325.
mind-set “You do your thing, and I’ll do Reeves, D. B. (2010). Elements of grading.
descriptive feedback to students, fol-
Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
lowed by opportunities to revise in light
of that feedback and be assessed and
accredited anew. We want to protect
that learning cycle as much as we can;
most professionals follow this kind of
development cycle throughout their
Learn how math teacher
Laurie Amundson implemented standards-based grading
in her classroom in the online-only
article “How I Overhauled Grading
Wormeli, R. (2006). Fair isn’t always equal:
Assessment and grading in the differentiated
classroom. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Ken O’Connor is an independent consultant and author who specializes in
Summative assessments, on the
as Usual,” available at www.ascd
issues related to communicating student
other hand, are for evaluative declara-
achievement; firstname.lastname@example.org. Rick .org/publications/educational-leader
tions and sorting students. They do
Wormeli is a national education con-
not offer much in the way of feedback
sultant, veteran educator, and author;
and opportunities for revision and