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K-12 Education K-12 Achievement Assessments K-12 RTI/MTSS

Destination, Data Insights: Celebrate Student Achievement & Growth!

Alison Boivin
Written By Alison Boivin
On Oct 6, 2022
6 minute read

Destination, Data Insights:

It's Time to Celebrate Student Achievement & Growth!

Each year I taught upper elementary school, students took the end-of-the-year state achievement assessment. It was always an intense time for students and teachers. After we got the state test scores, I quickly began analyzing each student’s performance through class and individual reports. I first looked for high-level trends, and then I compared students’ previous year’s subject area scores with their current scaled score. I looked for growth, performance level comparison, and domain strengths & weaknesses for each student in each subject. I highlighted improvements in performance bands and domains from the previous year. 


As the next school year began, I shared each student’s individual results with the next year’s teachers. As I acquired a new group of students each fall, I reviewed their scores, identified their domain strengths & weaknesses, and discussed the results with parents at conference time. Having that summative assessment data to provide domain needs at the beginning of the year, triangulated with current diagnostic and formative assessment data, gave me a complete picture of the student’s progress to share with administrators, parents, and students. 


An end-of-the-year state test is one example of a summative assessment. Graduation or grade level promotion assessments are also summative in nature. Such assessments, known as ‘assessments OF learning,’ demonstrate how well the student has mastered specific skills or standards at a specific point in time. Summative assessments are administered at the end of the learning process after the learning occurs, to summarize content & skill mastery. Summative assessments can be given at the end of a unit of study, a series of lessons, or the end of a length of time such as the quarter, semester, or school year. Broadly, summative assessments provide the necessary data to evaluate, improve, and identify strengths & weaknesses in district & school level instructional programs, and inform decisions for needed resources.



Location tag imageAt a local level, summative assessments highlight student performance trends among student cohorts that are useful for professional development support, vertical team discussions, cohesive instructional plans, and differentiated instruction. Administrators and teachers can compare summative assessment data to state, district, and school goals to identify progress and areas of improvement within content areas and specific populations of students. At the classroom level, summative assessments provide teachers with instructional next steps in the learning process, identify additional support or extended learning needed, and identify the instructional level of rigor needed for future learning.


Two common types of large-scale summative assessments are criterion-referenced and norm-referenced assessments:

Image of a targetCriterion-referenced summative assessments are achievement measures that give evidence of the individual student’s mastery of the standards taught during the year. The results are often used to compare schools and districts for public accountability, as well as identify and adjust district goals, policies, and strategies.

Image of a group

Norm-referenced summative assessments, in contrast, compare a student’s results to that of a group, such as the grade level and nation.   


The Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test™ (GMRT), is an example of a norm-referenced summative assessment measuring reading achievement for pre-K students to adulthood. Students answer questions related to phonics, phonological awareness, and word decoding & knowledge in the lower grades, and vocabulary & reading comprehension in the upper grades through adulthood. With 2 parallel forms available, data from the assessment informs the diagnosis of reading needs for individuals and groups of students for appropriate class placement, instructional needs, and student growth. Learn more about GMRT here.


Summative assessments can come in a variety of formats, including the examples below.


Traditional and Non-Traditional Classroom Summative Assessment Examples


Summative assessments are a valuable part of the learning process. Administered in a variety of ways, they demonstrate to all stakeholders – administrators, teachers, parents, and students alike - the specific skills the student has mastered and those in which they need additional support.


Questions to consider prior to administering assessments


Including summative assessments within the learning cycle, preparing students for the assessment experience, and analyzing the data from them will provide the insights needed to celebrate student areas of strength and maximize learning potential.   


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