Roanoke County uses a variety of types of assessment in order to fulfill different educational objectives.
Formative assessments are used by teachers to determine how well a student is learning the subject matter and help the teacher provide feedback on student learning, as well as determine if interventions or enrichment are necessary. These are often informal quick assessments such as all students answering a key question on a dry erase board to see which students are grasping a concept or a quick exit pass in which a student answers a few questions about that day’s lesson. More formal formative assessments include quizzes designed to monitor learning or even division benchmark tests designed to periodically measure student learning on a large scale.
Summative assessments are assessments designed to measure student mastery of learning after a concept has been taught. These are typically a larger part of a grading system and include tools such as traditional multiple-choice tests, essays, and performance-based assessments. Although not part of a grading system, Standards of Learning (SOL) tests are a summative assessment. A good analogy to understand the difference between formative and summative assessments relates to cooking. When a cook tests the soup to see if it needs more salt, that is formative assessment. Summative assessment occurs when the dinner guests try the soup.
Roanoke County also will administer assessments for other purposes. Intelligence and ability tests may be used for identification of giftedness or for assistance in placement in higher-level curricula. Pre-assessments may be used to find out what a student knows prior to instruction in order to help the teacher plan appropriate lessons or more purposefully group students. Diagnostic tests may be used to determine if a student may have a disability.
Regardless of the type of assessment, Roanoke County understands that assessment must be balanced in multiple ways. We must balance traditional multiple choice tests with more authentic assessments such as performance-based assessment. We must balance formative and summative assessment at the classroom level. While assessments are a necessary part of the teaching experience, we must ensure that over testing is minimized as much as possible. Roanoke County has removed some division-level benchmark assessments in order to find the right mix of instruction and assessment, and continues to monitor our assessment programs to make sure assessments are necessary and not redundant.
Required local performance assessments were added in 3rd grade social studies, 3rd grade science, 5th grade writing, 6th grade U.S. History I, and 7th grade U.S. History II when the state removed their SOLs. Their balanced assessment plans are shown on the right column of this page.