Design Guide – Summative Assessment

Effective proficiency-based summative assessments provide students with an opportunity to clearly demonstrate and provide evidence of their learning against clear expectations, as defined by scoring criteria. Strong summative assessments provide opportunities for authentic demonstration that indicate a student’s ability to transfer their skills and knowledge to novel situations, beyond the specific assessment task provided. Note that the full range of summative assessments, including traditional tests, can be designed to align with the traits below, not only project-based assessments.

This design guide provides criteria that can be used as assessments are created (summative assessment design protocol) or to critique and improve existing assessments (summative assessment tuning protocol). For additional information about how summative assessments relate to the larger proficiency system, and for clarification on the terms and concepts referenced here, see our framework for proficiency-based systems.

How aligned is the assessment task to the graduation competencies and performance indicators?
• It is clear what skills or knowledge students will demonstrate through the task (graduation competencies and performance indicators are clearly identified).
• Cognitive level of the task matches the level in the identified performance indicators.
• Content knowledge and skills required in the assessment task match those identified in the performance indicators.
How accessible is the assessment task to all students?
• Expectations of the assessment task are clear to students.
• Options for accommodations for students with special needs are described to ensure all students can achieve proficiency at a rigorous level.
• Task provides opportunities for student choice.
• Task is written with sensitivity to cultural differences.
How relevant is the assessment task to students’ lives? Does it require students to apply knowledge or create something new using what they have learned?
• Task is complex (interdisciplinary, incorporates cross-curricular skills, or assesses multiple performance indicators).
• Task requires the use of multiple sources or novel material.

Project-based assessments may include additional attributes:
• Task may provide opportunity for students to engage with a school, community, or expert audience.
• Task lends itself to the creation of an authentic product or performance.
How challenging is the task? Does it require students to think critically at the level defined by the performance indicators?
• Task requires higher-order thinking: application, analysis, evaluation, or creation in alignment with the performance indicators being assessed, or the use of complex or novel sources or texts.
• Task requires students to integrate and apply the skills and knowledge described in several different performance indicators.
Are the success criteria clearly defined? If the assessment includes a group product, how is the level of individual proficiency determined?
• Rubric descriptors or scoring criteria clearly define levels of performance.
• Task allows for individual demonstration of proficiency in the identified performance indicators.
• Habits of work are assessed separately from academic knowledge and skills.
• Items are grouped or clearly identified by the indicator being assessed.

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