Deeper Learning – Summative Assessments

Summative assessments evaluate students’ progress with identified curriculum standards or objectives and proficiencies. Summative assessments should be as objective as possible.

Students’ presentations of their findings to audiences are called performance assessments. When as part of a challenge-solving project students create new products, the presentation of their products can be used as a summative assessment or part of it and it is called product assessment. Both performance and product assessments are considered authentic assessments, as they are similar to what students might need to do in future work.

With performance or product assessments – be sure what you are assess are identified standards and proficiencies with which students need to progress.  For example if you use a rubric with a performance or product assessment, what is on the rubric should be identified standards and proficiencies or steps towards them.


Other  examples of summative assessment format possibilities are end of unit essays, concept maps, and objective tests. For evaluating students’ essays, presentations, concept maps, or products rubrics help to keep the assessments objective.

As Heidi Hayes Jacobs writes in Curriculum 21 (2010, Alexandria, VA: ASCD), assessments can incorporate technology, for example, students’ documentaries, podcasts, web sites, digital music compositions, on-line journals, e-mail exchanges, and video conferences.

A combination of formative assessments can be used in summative evaluation. Often a combination of formative (informal) assessments  are more reliable about students’ performance than summative (formal) assessments.



Standardized Tests

Standardized tests of Common Core State Standards from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, or PARCC will include assessment of students’ inquiry and problem solving ability.   An Education Week article Consortia Provide Preview of Common Assessments, (Gewertz, 2012, August 14) provides examples of preliminary draft questions.

     English/Language Arts.  A selected-response item asks 5th graders to read an article about how scientists track bird migration and to identify the two paragraphs that contain the author’s opinions on the topic. The question taps key skills required in the common standards, such as comprehending “content rich” nonfiction and citing textual evidence for an argument.

. A constructed-response item for 11th graders asks them to read excerpts from an 1872 speech by women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony and the “Second Treatise of Civil Government” by English philosopher John Locke, published in 1690. They must identify the ideas common to both pieces and discuss how Locke’s ideas support Anthony’s arguments, citing evidence from each to support their interpretations.

. A sample task, scheduled to take 105 minutes, asks 6th graders to read an interview with a teenager who started a charity to help Peruvian orphans. It directs them to articles and videos on specified Web pages to learn more about other young people who devote themselves to helping those in need.  The students answer constructed-response questions that require them to describe what they’ve learned, analyze the meanings of key words, and discuss how they evaluated the reliability of their Web resources. They must research and present a five-minute speech about a “young wonder” of their choice, complete with audiovisual representations.

     Math. A sample math performance task asks 6th graders to figure out what they need to build a community garden to a given set of specifications for $450.  During two test sessions totaling up to two hours, students would have to calculate many figures, including the perimeter, surface areas, and volume of each section of the garden, and make a sketch based on their calculations. They must figure out how much wood and soil are needed and how many tomato and carrot plants to buy, given their cost, the garden’s size, and each plant’s need for space. Finally, they must show how their project will stay within its allotted budget.


Assessing the Deeper  Learning Unit
Also consider assessment of the unit itself. As in all teaching, reflecting and noting what is effective and what can be enhanced for next time leads to best practices. Having colleagues with whom to discuss the unit’s strengths, areas for strengthening, and future plans often produces best insights and plans.   HPIM1793


(Gewertz, 2012, August 14). Consortia provides preview of common assessments. Education Week. Retrieved from

Copyright Lee Anna Stirling 2015 All Rights Reserved

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