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Balanced Assessment

VBCPS uses multiple types of assessments to inform instruction and measure subject mastery and 21st century skills. This balanced approach to assessment includes summative, formative, standardized and performance assessments.

Formative and Summative Assessments

Formative assessments help teachers determine how well a student is learning a concept or subject during the teaching process and to provide feedback. They are used to determine if a topic needs to be retaught or if further instruction is needed on a concept. In a classroom, this type of assessment may look like questioning, conferencing, peer/teacher evaluation, exit tickets, portfolio checks, quizzes and self-evaluation.

Summative assessments are used during and after a concept is taught to evaluate student mastery. These types of assessments may look like student-designed labs, performance tasks, portfolio reviews, demonstrations, SOLs and final exams.

The main difference between formative and summative assessments is how the information or results from each assessment are used. Teachers use formative assessment to improve instruction and give students feedback on their progress during a lesson, unit or course. Summative assessments are typically used as grades to evaluate how well students have done at the end of a lesson, unit or course. Here is a common analogy to better identify the difference between formative and summative assessment: "When the cook tastes the soup, that's formative assessment. When the guests taste the soup, that's summative assessment."

Standardized Assessments

These assessments evaluate student performance by a set of criteria administered across a wide population.

  • SOL Tests: State-mandated tests designed to measure student learning and achievement in grades 3-12 in English, mathematics, science and history/social science.
  • ACT: Measures achievement in English, mathematics, reading and science and assesses college readiness. It is used for college applications and is an optional college admissions test.
  • PSAT 8/9: Measures achievement in reading, writing and language, and mathematics. It is an assessment administered to eighth-grade students that tests the same skills and knowledge as the SAT, the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) and PSAT10.
  • PSAT/NMSQT: Measures scholastic aptitude in critical reading, mathematics and writing and is used to provide students with practice for the SAT. Also used to determine if a student is a candidate for Advanced Placement (AP) courses, to assess college readiness and to identify areas where additional instructional support is needed.
  • SAT: Measures scholastic aptitude in critical reading, mathematics and writing and is used by students in college applications. This is an optional college admissions test.

Performance Assessments

These assessments measure knowledge, understanding, ability and skills. They can include real-world scenarios that require critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Performance assessments are often designed and implemented by teachers specifically for their individual classrooms. However, the school division schedules and administers the following performance assessments:

  • Local Alternative Assessments: The 2014 General Assembly eliminated Standards of Learning assessments in Grade 3 History, Grade 3 Science, Grade 5 Writing, United States History to 1865, and United States History: 1865 to the Present. The Assembly's action required local school divisions to continue to teach the content and to measure student achievement with local alternative assessments, including authentic or performance assessments. In accordance with the Virginia Department of Education, students must participate in division created alternative assessments in these areas.
  • Integrated Performance Task (IPT): Measures critical thinking, problem solving and written communication through a performance task that uses real-life scenarios. Administered in grades 4 and 7.