For years I witnessed my elementary students take Indiana state assessments. It was frustrating. My students lacked mental stamina, retention of material, and the ability to tackle rigorous questions. I felt I was a good teacher, but my results did not reflect my efforts or those of the students.
It wasn’t until I began assessing cumulatively, that I found my students truly acquired a deep understanding of the required materials.
Why cumulatively? Quite simply, it took away all of my concerns:
Mental Stamina increased as the weekly tests became gradually longer.
Retention was no longer a concern, as material was revisited throughout the school year.
Rigor was addressed by revisiting standards. Each time an assessment went back to a prior skill, the question would increase in rigor. And this was coupled with the question format changing. You see, my students would “melt” and become confused if a question was asked in a different format than taught. Once I began exposing my students to different ways of questioning the same skill (requiring them to apply their understanding), mastery of the concept accelerated. Also, results followed as they should.
My first year using this proven pedagogy, 95% of my students passed the state assessment in Math. This represented a significant jump from previous years.
I so strongly believe in cumulative assessments. It made a difference for my students.