The data-driven insights that educators collect through assessments and other measures can serve as a vital tool—to help them gauge not only a student’s understanding of the curriculum but also their personal growth and well-being.
To get a holistic view of the multiple factors that can foster or impede student growth, educators can leverage several different types of assessment in education to track students’ academic achievement and well-being at school across multiple dimensions. Together, these measures can help guide classroom instruction and build a clearer picture of the whole child.
Common Types of Assessments in K-12 Education
The most common types of assessments to measure students’ academic achievement and progress are summative, interim, and formative.
|Summative Assessments||Interim Assessments||Formative Assessments|
|Administered at the end of a class or school year to better understand what students have learned (e.g., CTP by ERB for Grades 1-11)||Administered throughout the school year as checkpoints to ensure student progress is remaining on track (e.g., ERB Milestones)||Administered as brief assessments to measure whether students have developed specific skills (e.g., quizzes, classroom activities)|
1. Summative Assessments
Educators typically administer summative assessments at the end of a class or school year, although they can also be administered at the start of the year to identify where to focus instruction. They serve as a measure of a detailed set of standards and are administered after those standards have been taught as a way of understanding what students have learned. These extensive assessments are often used to evaluate curriculum, identify students who need more support, and clarify the knowledge and skill areas that require greater instructional focus.
For many educators, the most useful summative assessments are those that produce scale scores and norms. These kinds of results allow educators and administrators to assess where individual students scored compared with their peers and to understand the academic performance of groups of students over time.
ERB’s Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP) for students in grades 1-11 is a summative assessment that covers reading, listening, vocabulary, writing, mathematics, and science. It measures both content-specific and conceptual knowledge as well as reasoning ability. ERB offers data on several norm groups so educators can compare student growth and performance against national and independent school benchmarks.
2. Interim Assessments
Like summative assessments, interim assessments measure how well students are learning a broad range of material. But instead of administering these tests at the end of a term or school year, educators administer them throughout the year as checkpoints to ensure that student academic performance is growing and remaining on track. Interim assessments can help reveal knowledge or skill areas where students show gaps. They are generally shorter and more targeted than summative assessments.
ERB Milestones includes brief reading and math assessments that educators can administer in the fall, winter, and spring to get real-time data to guide their instructional approach and offer interventions if needed. Since they use the same standards, score scales, and norms as ERB’s CTP summative assessments, it’s easy to interpret students’ scores and progress in comparison to CTP trends.
3. Formative Assessments
Unlike summative assessments, formative assessments are supplements to the teaching and learning process that elicit data for use by both students and educators. Instructors teach a particular set of skills or material and then use a brief assessment to measure whether students have learned those skills. The results give both the student and teacher actionable insights.
“Feedback to the student helps them understand whether they learned the content and, if not, what they need to do differently,” says Glenn Milewski, Chief Program Officer at ERB. “The teacher sees whether a critical mass of students has learned the content enough to move on to the next set of lessons or if specific students need interventions like tutoring. It creates a feedback loop.”
Teachers can use that information throughout the school year to meet students where they are with appropriately paced curricula and differentiated instruction.
Examples of Formative Assessments
Informal formative assessments include in-class activities, presentations, Q&As, observations, and short quizzes. An important consideration for informal measures like these is that student grades should be secondary to the value of the feedback loop they create. For example, a teacher whose class struggles with a pop quiz on fractions learns she has to invest more in reinforcing core concepts or getting to the root of what is blocking her students’ learning.
Other more formal options include tools like ERB Writing Practice, an online program that allows students in grades 3-12 to practice their writing skills year-round with instant feedback and scoring generated by the AI-driven PEG algorithm. Educators sometimes also use results from summative or interim assessments formatively, which means leveraging a content domain, standard, or even a test question showing low performance to uncover what students haven’t learned.
“The teacher sees whether a critical mass of students has learned the content enough to move on to the next set of lessons, or if specific students need interventions like tutoring. It creates a feedback loop.”— Glenn Milewski, Chief Program Officer at ERB
Other Important Measures to Help Inform Student Growth
Beyond more traditional types of assessments, educators can use several other measures to drive their decision-making in the classroom and wider school community. These can extend beyond just academic performance to also focus on student well-being and social and emotional skills, all of which can impact student progress.
Since writing skills are more subjective than mathematics or reading comprehension, it can be challenging to design effective writing assessments that capture both a student’s technical mastery and their ability to present ideas effectively. That’s why thorough feedback is crucial to students’ development as writers and thinkers.
Writing assessments offer valuable information to teachers as they develop lessons and curricula. For example, a teacher might find that their students need help structuring paragraphs or strengthening their writing with the use of references.
ERB’s Writing Assessment Program (WrAP) uses standardized rubrics to measure writing achievement and help educators tailor their teaching to students’ strengths and weaknesses. Like the CTP, WrAP puts results in the context of different norm groups to help teachers benchmark students’ progress. It also offers individual student reports with annotations explaining each student’s score.
Extensive research has shown that supportive school and peer relationships are essential to student well-being — and that emotionally healthy, engaged students perform better in the classroom. Today, schools can use well-being surveys to measure positive and negative trends among their student bodies and identify at-risk students. Educators can take action with this data to drive school culture and climate initiatives.
ERB’s Check-In Survey, built in partnership with Character Lab, takes just 10-15 minutes to administer. It measures students’ academic engagement, emotional well-being, and sense of fairness and belonging in the school community, all of which help them thrive in and out of the classroom. Schools can use the tool throughout the year to track changes and measure the success of different interventions.
Social and Emotional Skills Inventories
Students need strong social and emotional skills to succeed both inside and outside of school. However, traditional assessment tools don’t capture these abilities.
ERB’s new SelfWise inventory measures five core competencies identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to help students manage their emotions, make healthy choices, and build positive relationships. They include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
The tool—which offers three versions for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12—asks students to choose a rating from a scale as they respond to statements that align with the CASEL competencies. Educators can administer the 15-minute inventory twice yearly and assess individual students and groups to track development in ERB 360 Access.
Screenshot of SelfWise reporting available in ERB 360 Access for an individual student
Diagnostic assessments measure students’ mastery of a prescribed set of skills, such as reading or math. These tests are highly targeted—for example, demonstrating proficiency in sixth-grade geometry might require applying a specific number of principles to solve a set of problems.
Educators often use diagnostic assessments when students enter a new grade or school to determine whether their knowledge and skills align with grade standards, place them in appropriate classes, and pinpoint support needs.
Many independent and private K-12 schools use admission testing as part of their application processes. These tests typically measure reading, math, and quantitative and verbal reasoning, with different versions based on grade level. They can be used as an objective data point in the admission process, alongside more subjective student interviews and letters of recommendation, to gauge student readiness for the rigor of a school’s curriculum.
More than 1,200 independent schools around the world use ERB’s Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE), which measures not just what students know but also how they think. The ISEE offers online and paper test options for students entering Grades 2–12 and helps admission specialists gauge which students are academically ready or need additional preparation—which, in some cases, a school can provide—to support transitioning to their school.
2023-2024 ISEE Quick Facts Guide
Download the ISEE Quick Facts Guide for students and their families, with details on registration, the types of questions on the exam, and preparing for test day.
Developing a Whole-Child Approach to Assessment
An integrated strategy that uses different types of assessment in the classroom can help support student growth and build connected, supportive academic communities. Of course, the types of assessments educators administer will vary based on their mission, goals, and needs. Teachers and administrators can apply the insights gained from their assessments to inform their data-driven decision-making.
ERB bridges the gap between academic performance, student well-being and belonging, and social and emotional skills with its newly launched Whole Child Solution. Educators can design an ERB program bundle at discounted rates compared with purchasing each standalone product, to understand the factors that may impact student growth.
Using the ERB 360 Access data reporting platform, educators can also view interactive visualizations that provide a holistic snapshot of student strengths and areas for growth across ERB assessments.
Screenshot of Rose Compass data visualization tool in ERB 360 Access
We will also soon launch our new Head of School Report, a resource designed specifically for school leadership seeking an interpretive summary of their ERB assessment results to guide strategic planning and evaluation from a whole child perspective. The highly visual, customized report explores school, grade, and other group outcomes with results tracked over multiple years.
“The best way to help an individual student or teacher is to have more data points,” Milewski says. “And with modern technology, it’s far easier to connect those data streams and interpret what they mean.”
Bridge the gap between student academic achievement, well-being and belonging, and social and emotional skills with ERB’s new Whole Child Solution.