On my drive into work the other day I was intrigued by a story on NPR about the (really) long-term effects of breastfeeding. In the study conducted in Brazil that followed breast-fed babies into adulthood, small gains in IQ were measured. But more interesting was the impact on their higher levels of education — and most interesting of all was the finding that their monthly earnings were on average, nearly 1/3 higher.

This inspired me to think about all the small changes that can be made, and more importantly about the scale of the impact those changes can have on a person, their family, the economy and the world. This social impact “bomb pattern” of positive change really drives me in my work.

So what does this have to do with summative assessment? For me, every time we identify a gap in a student’s knowledge, we’ve uncovered an opportunity for a teacher to intervene. If those interventions occur, so much positive change is possible:  the impact on college or career readiness immediately comes to mind.  However, as the Brazilian study I cited above suggests, the results of those interventions may have an even greater long-term effect on factors like higher levels of education and greater average income. Attaining higher education and bettering income prospects gives someone the power to achieve greater personal success while providing better support, care and comfort for spouses, children, elderly parents and other extended family members. And this positive impact continues to compound exponentially from that small set of interventions.

That, to me, is what educational assessment is really all about: identifying points of intervention that put this cycle of positive change in motion. In the short term in the classroom, meaningful assessment can bring about meaningful change. What’s exciting for me is to think about this ripple of change over the course of a lifetime.

Small changes do make a difference — I love making a difference every day at Questar.