Formative Assessment vs. Summative Assessment Results: Timing Matters

Formative Assessment vs. Summative Assessment Results:  Timing Matters

We won’t spend much time defining what formative assessment is or what summative assessment is, since we’ve done that in a previous blog. In short, formative assessment are ongoing frequent measurements of a students’ understanding; a way for teachers and parents to gauge how students are doing as they’re learning what’s being taught. Summative assessments on the other hand are usually end of year exams that are taken to measure where a child is at the end of the learning period.

The problem with summative assessments isn’t the data it provides per se, but rather when the results are provided to teachers (results are usually provided to parents and kids during the following summer). Getting results back can often take up to 3 – 6 months; far too long for any teaching adjustments to be made that would affect that student’s learning during the school year. With formative assessment– specifically the minute-by-minute and day-by-day kind that we’ve blogged about – the results are immediate, giving the teacher the time needed to adjust his or her teaching strategy to meet the needs of all students.

The value inherent in the time it takes to get assessment results is not lost on educators or parents. In a recent Grunwald Associates research study on the perception of assessments, time was paramount in the effectiveness of assessments. The research found that with parents, assessment results begin losing their relevance within one month after assessments are administered. Among teachers and district administrators, the research results were similar, with 67 percent ‘completely’ or ‘somewhat’ in agreement that interim and formative assessment results are delivered more timely.

We’d love to hear what you think. Does the value of time in getting results make a difference to the value of the assessment being given?

Blog post

Helping students grow

Students continue to rebound from pandemic school closures. NWEA® and Learning Heroes experts talk about how best to support them here on our blog, Teach. Learn. Grow.

See the post


Put the science of reading into action

The science of reading is not a buzzword. It’s the converging evidence of what matters and what works in literacy instruction. We can help you make it part of your practice.

Get the guide


Support teachers with PL

High-quality professional learning can help teachers feel invested—and supported—in their work.

Read the article