Among the complaints most teachers have about end-of-year tests is that they provide little or no actionable information about students, at least for the current school year. Even interim assessments, given three or four times a year, may not yield timely feedback, especially if portions need to be sent out for hand scoring of open-ended responses. For test feedback to be useful, it has to be tangible, transparent, actionable, customized, timely, ongoing, and consistent. That’s a tall order.
Formative assessments, which can be given at any time, promise all the qualities of useful feedback, but they sometimes fail to deliver because they are technically flawed: they lack reliability, or they don’t capture critical aspects of the curriculum, or they take so long to grade that by the time they are graded, everyone has moved on.
What if we combined the best qualities of standardized summative and interim tests with the best qualities of formative classroom tests? What would those tests look like? Would they look like tests at all? What should they look like?