Summative makes formative worth less
February 10, 2023
Another change implemented with grading reform is a change in how formative and summative assignments affect grades differently. Summative assignments such as tests, essays and projects now take up a higher percentage of the grade year after year.
Makayla Nicholes, a junior, said, “I feel like formative is kinda useless because most everything now is summative.”
Some teachers make most assignments summative now, because they see that students don’t do formative work. If it doesn’t directly affect their grade, students don’t see a reason for doing it. But sometimes all the assignments come together and it’s important to do all of them for a teacher’s overall plan.
“One of the biggest issues with grading reform in my classes has been motivating students to find value in completing formative assessments,” said Silverado teacher Kylene Vidal. “This has resulted in students ‘checking out’ of assignments they feel are unimportant, many times not realizing that how they perform on formative assignments helps dictate what lessons I focus on in class.”
According to Oxford Languages, the word formative is an adjective, meaning “serving to form something, especially having a profound and lasting influence on a person’s development.” Formative work is the rock learning is based on. It is assignments that give you practice with those skills, give you the opportunity to make mistakes and figure out what you did wrong, so you are ready for the test. Summative work is opportunities for students to show what they have learned, or their “mastery of standards” as officials would say. It all comes down to if you know the standard.
“You can think of formative work as practice and summative as game day,” said Todd. “Meaningful formative work is the pathway to a successful summative experience.”
You have to practice to score goals, but how you do during practice does not directly affect the score of the game. You still have to show up and practice to succeed.
According to a recent Silverado graduate Abigail Jackson, now a college freshman, “The summative vs formative grading scale is really similar to the ones most college professors use, with some classes having around 70% of the grade relying on major tests.”
The grading system can actually help prepare students for college. Silverado had implemented a grading system where summative work counts for 80% of the grade and formative work counts for 20%.
Formative work should be an opportunity to learn and make mistakes, so when facing critical summative assignments, students can be prepared. Of course, that doesn’t really work if students don’t do the formative work. It is imperative students practice skills, but lowering the weight of formative work can take away incentive to do that work and get that practice.