As the semester ends, it is now the season of final exams. I find the idea of finals in middle school a little odd, but I will work with what I am given. I find them odd because in my district we take regular common formative assessments (CFAs) at the end of each unit.
I know what your thinking, I said formative, so what’s the issue? Well, it is a misnomer. We use them not as we go, but at the end (summation) of a unit. For example, we may give the CFA at the beginning of a unit as a pre-test, then give the same test as the unit exam. In my mind, that makes it more of a dual function diagnostic/summative exam rather than formative. If it were a true formative, we would give it to students in chunks, as they finished a lesson in the segment. Instead we wait, hype it up, provide a study guide, and give it as a chapter test by another name.
I must admit, I don't like the CFA process and don't use them often in class as we are prescribed to do. The tests typically have no fewer than 50 multiple choice and matching questions. Unfortunately, for students who need read-aloud accommodations, have processing deficits, and/or a general low frustration level, those kinds of tests simply aren’t effective in my setting.