Using Interim Assessments Instead of Summative? Consideration of an ESSA Option

This technical report (presented at a CCSSO conference) shares the ESSA provision that both enables and lays out requirements for using interim assessments in place of a single end of year assessment for state accountability purposes. The authors’ guidance for considering the use of interim assessment for summative accountability purposes is organized into three central questions:

  1. What is the state’s summative claim?
  2. What information is provided by the interim assessment?
  3. What administrative conditions are required for each?

Although the authors discuss possible advantages to using interim assessment in place of a single summative assessment, they also provide reasons why these advantages may be very difficult to achieve. States may view possible advantages as an overall reduction in testing time, the possibility of testing providing more instructionally useful data, and/or the possibility of greater depth in assessment through the use of more complex curriculum-embedded performance assessments. However, at the same time, states need to be wary because of concerns about the technical adequacy of existing interim assessments for high stakes use, the potential reduction of local curriculum control that might be required, and the additional resources and support, including additional costs, that will be needed to implement interim assessments for summative accountability purposes.  

Content Comments 

The general conclusions from the report are particularly noteworthy and speak to the feasibility (or lack thereof) of using interim assessments in the short term for formative purposes:

  • Implementing such a system of interim assessments:
    • will require a sustained, multiyear effort that goes above and beyond the effort currently involved in typical summative assessment programs, and
    • may require developing agreement among stakeholders on a number of issues not often addressed in typical summative assessment systems.
  • Most commercially available assessments would likely require additional documentation, development, or both to meet this ESSA option.