The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards in ELA/literacy and mathematics.
Frequently Asked Questions
Smarter Balanced assessments: A big moment for our schools - This article by Joe Willhoft, executive director of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, reviews the key steps in the test development process that have occurred to date (cognitivelabs, small-scale trials, special efforts to make the test valid, reliable and fair for English learners and students with disabilities, and last spring’s Pilot Test) and looks ahead to the upcoming Field Test.
Smarter Balanced conducted a Field Test from March 25 – June 6, 2014. The Field Test was a practice run of the assessment system that helped ensure that test questions are accurate and fair for all students. It also gave teachers and schools a chance to gauge their readiness in advance of the first operational assessment in spring 2015. All 21 Governing States and the U.S. Virgin Islands participated in the Field Test. 4.2 million students completed a practice run of the Smarter Balanced assessments in math, English language arts (ELA), or both. A report on the Field Test summarizing the testing experience and highlighting some initial lessons learned has been posted on the Smarter Balanced Web site at www.smarterbalanced.org/field-test.
99 schools from across the state participated in the Smarter Balanced Field Test. Their voluntary participation to “test the test” not only informs the test developers of what works and what doesn't, it more importantly offers an opportunity for schools to determine their level of readiness for the transition to on-line assessments.
Schools tested in a single grade or multiple grades in one or both content areas. The test is untimed and no results are produced. The test is comprised of two components; first, a “non-performance task” (multiple choice, matching tables, drag and drop). These items will become the adaptive portion of the operational assessment in 2015. Second, the instructional staff conduct a “classroom activity” which is followed by a related “performance task” that requires the student to answer a set of complex questions. Students taking the English Language Arts performance task will be required to engage in the full writing process.
There been glitches and frustration yet the feedback has also been positive, such as the teacher who called to say that her fourth graders asked if they could keep going with their test rather than go to recess.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) released sets of example test questions for grades 3–8 and 11 in both English language arts/literacy and mathematics. These Practice Tests will help schools prepare for the implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System coming in the 2014-15 school year by providing a preview of the types of questions that will be featured in the summative assessment beginning in 2014-15, including selected-response items, constructed-response items, technology-enhanced items, and performance tasks - extended activities that challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to respond to real-world problems. The Practice Tests are freely available on the Smarter Balanced Web site, but will only work on supported browsers, depending on the operating system of your device. The Internet Explorer browser is not supported. A list of supported browsers and operating systems can also be found on this site.
Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines
The Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines offers a variety of accessibility tools and accommodations for students with disabilities and English language learners, including dynamic features such as videos of human signers using American Sign Language and customized pop-up glossaries.
Achievement Level Descriptors
Draft initial ALDs were developed in October 2012 by K-12 teachers and administrators and higher education faculty from two- and four-year colleges and universities representing Smarter Balanced Governing States. The ALDs are linked to an operational definition of college content-readiness, as well as a policy framework to guide score interpretation for high schools and colleges. Following their initial development, both the ALDs and the definition of college content-readiness were revised based on a series of reviews from member states, partners, and individual stakeholders. The ALDs were approved by Governing State vote on March 20, 2013. The college content-readiness policy was approved by Governing State vote on April 22, 2013. Final documents were released on April 29, 2013 and are available at www.smarterbalanced.org/achievement-level-descriptors-and-college-readiness.
Technology Readiness in New Hampshire
The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, in collaboration with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium, has developed a Technology Readiness Tool to support districts with planning for technology as they transition to next-generation assessments to be launched beginning in 2014. This new open source tool assesses current capacity and compares that to the technology that will be needed to administer the new online assessments in four areas-devices, device to tester ratio, network infrastructure, and staff and personnel. There will be a series of six data collection windows in which the tool will be open for updating of informaiton. The goal of the first data collection window is to collect easily-accessible baseline data. Data collection will occur once each spring and fall through 2014. All districts in New Hampshire will be requested to use the tool to assess technology readiness during each window. The data collected and reports provided by this tool will be valuable in developing district technology plans in future planning cycles. For more information, access the NH Technology Readiness Page on NHEON at: www.nheon.org/oet/readiness/
Technology Strategy Framework and System Requirements Specifications
Smarter Balanced has released a technology planning framework for member states preparing to implement the assessment system in the 2014-15 school year. The framework, developed by Navigation North on behalf of the Consortium, provides minimum hardware specifications and basic bandwidth calculations that will allow schools and districts to evaluate which of their existing devices will support the administration of next-generation assessments. The framework was developed with input and feedback from Smarter Balanced member states, work groups, and data from the Technology Readiness Tool, an online inventory of technology resources launched earlier this year. Based on the research and data analysis, Smarter Balanced estimates that the majority of schools and districts in member states will be able to successfully administer the assessments with their existing infrastructure. The full Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and Systems Requirements Specifications report can be accessed at: www.smarterbalanced.org/smarter-balanced-assessments/technology.
Sample Assessment Items Released for Public Review and Comment
Smarter Balanced released a set of sample assessment items and performance tasks online for public review. Developed in collaboration with educators and content experts, the sample items and tasks are meant to help teachers, administrators, and policymakers better understand the Common Core State Standards and to prepare for the implementation of the Smarter Balanced assessments. The sample items and performance tasks can be accessed from the Smarter Balanced Web site at www.smarterbalanced.org/sample-items-and-performance-tasks.
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