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Smarter Balanced Field Test Questions and Answers

Questions and answers about the Smarter Balanced Field Test that will be administered in spring 2014.

Last Updated: March 5, 2014

Assembly Bill (AB) 484, which was signed by the Governor on October 2, 2013, requires all California local educational agencies (LEAs) to participate in the spring 2014 Smarter Balanced Field Test. This document provides answers to questions about requirements and expectations of LEA participation in the spring 2014 Field Test.


  1. What is the purpose of the spring 2014 Smarter Balanced Field Test (FT)?
    Field testing is critical to ensure that assessment items are accessible to all students and produce results that are valid, reliable, and fair. The spring 2014 Smarter Balanced FT will test the performance of over 20,000 newly developed test items and evaluate the test delivery system. Items deemed suitable for use on the live (i.e., operational) tests, which will begin in the 2014-15 school year, will be used to populate the test item bank. Also, the FT will help ensure that the Smarter Balanced assessment items are placed on an accurate scale to determine final achievement levels (i.e., cut scores) as well as their corresponding descriptors.

  2. Will individual student, school, or district score reports be generated from the FT?
    No. A field test is not designed to be a valid and reliable measure of student achievement; rather, it is designed to help the test developers evaluate whether the tests, individual items, and the technology platform work as intended before the first operational administration.  As a result, neither a state nor its LEAs are required to report field-test results—either individual student results to parents and teachers or on State or local ESEA report cards. In addition, AB 484 specifically prohibits the production of individual student scores from the FT unless they are determined to be valid and reliable.

  3. What role will the FT play in meeting state and/or federal accountability requirements?
    None. The data resulting from the FT will not be factored into any state or federal accountability calculations.

  4. Did the Smarter Balanced spring 2013 Pilot Test influence the FT?
    Yes. Data and survey results from the Smarter Balanced Pilot Test were used to inform the development of the FT, including but not limited to adjustments and improvements to: overall test design; estimated student testing time; test and item directions; item specifications; display of test items including associated pictures, graphs, or other materials;  interactive item types; and scoring rubrics.

LEA and Student Participation

  1. Who will take the FT?
    AB 484 requires all California LEAs to participate in the FT. Student participation requirements are as follows:

The only students exempt from participating in the Smarter Balanced FT are students who will take the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) and, for the English-language arts (ELA) FT only, English learners who have attended school in the United States for less than 12 months.

  1. What are the benefits of participating in the spring 2014 FT?
    By participating in the Smarter Balanced FT, students, teachers, and administrators will receive valuable exposure to and experience with the California’s future assessment system. Students will gain hands-on experience with the functionality of innovative technology-enhanced items and newly designed performance tasks with related classroom activities. Teachers and administrators will gain valuable experience with administration logistics, which will help them better prepare for a smooth and successful participation in the operational assessments, which will begin in the 2014–15 school year. LEAs will benefit from learning where their technology gaps may be, enabling them to fully prepare for the operational assessments. California will benefit by having the diversity of its student population included in the analysis of test and item quality and development of achievement level scores and descriptors.

  2. Can LEAs volunteer to be included in the scientific sample of the FT?
    No. The scientific sample will be determined by the CDE and ETS.

Technology Requirements

  1. What are the minimum technology requirements for the FT?
    To promote ease of implementation, the online FT assessment system has been designed to operate within the technology infrastructures that currently exist in most schools. Accordingly, the system works on a variety of older hardware and operating system configurations, such as Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.4.4. More information about the minimum technology requirements can be found in the report “Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and Testing Device Requirements,” available on the Technology page of the Smarter Balanced Web site External link opens in new window or tab. . LEAs should consult these minimum technology specifications prior to any technology purchases.

  2. What if an LEA is uncertain whether its technology meets the minimum requirements for administering the FT?
    While the CDE will be reaching out to all LEAs to ensure a successful FT experience, procedures will be established by the CDE for LEAs to certify the inability, due to lack of technology, of particular students to participate in the FT.


  1. How will students be registered for the FT?
    Using data from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS), the CDE will upload student demographic and program-level data to the FT registration system (i.e., Test Information Distribution Engine) on behalf of LEAs.

  2. Will LEAs be required to provide any student information as part of the registration process? (updated 05-Mar-2014)
    Yes. LEAs must enter required student designated supports and accommodations into the FT registration system.

  3. Can LEAs correct demographic and/or program data that appear in the FT registration system? (updated 05-Mar-2014)
    Yes. All corrections to student demographic and/or program-level data must be made by LEAs through CALPADS. The corrections will appear in the FT registration system within 48 hours.

Administration Logistics

  1. When will the FT occur? (updated 06-Jan-2014)
    The FT will be conducted across Smarter Balanced member states between March 18 and June 6, 2014. As during the spring 2013 Pilot Test, schools will assess students within a shorter window within this date range. Each school has been assigned a six-week window External link opens in new window or tab. in which to administer the FT.

  2. What content will be tested in the FT?
    The 2014 FT will engage students in online assessments in mathematics and ELA aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Most students will take a FT that contains both mathematics and ELA items, but a small percentage of students will be assessed in only one content area.

  3. How long will the FT take to administer?
    LEAs can expect the administration of the FT to take approximately 3.5 hours per student. This is approximately the same length as the operational assessments. The FT is intended to be administered over multiple sessions of about 45 minutes each, but may be administered in shorter or longer sessions as appropriate for the students and the school.

  4. Can students from multiple grade levels be assessed during the same test session?
    Yes. Students from multiple grade levels can be assessed concurrently in the same room while an administrator uses a computer to monitor the progress of students who are testing.

  5. What item types will the FT include?
    The FT will engage students in a computer-based component and performance task component. Item types will include those that will be found on the operational assessments beginning in the 2014-15 school year: multiple-choice, matching, fill-in tables, drag and drop, graphing, short text, long essay. Each FT will include a performance task.

  6. Will the FT be adaptive?
    No. The FT will give students an experience similar to that of the operational test in that each student will take a performance task component and a component designed to test new items for the adaptive test. During the FT, students will encounter the same mix of content, item types, and cognitive complexity that will be present on the 2015 operational test.

  7. Will there be a paper-and-pencil version of the FT?
    No. The FT is meant to “test the test” mimicking as close as possible the operational testing conditions. Therefore, the FT is strictly a computer-based modality. However, for the operational assessments that begin in the 2014-15 school year, a paper-and-pencil version will be available for up to three years to provide ample opportunity for LEAs to build their technology infrastructure.

  8. Which accommodations will be available for the FT?
    The Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines provide a list of the available tools, supports, and accommodations for use on the FT. The Guidelines also include guidance on the recommended use of each tool, support, and accommodation for specific student access needs.

  9. Will the use of scratch paper be allowed during the Field Test?
    Yes. The use of scratch paper is permitted as a non-embedded universal tool, as specified in the Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines.

  10. The Test Security Affidavit that appears in the CAASPP regulations states, “I will not include, nor will I display, a pupil’s name and Statewide Student Identifier (SSID) together in any written or electronic format.” Does this statement prohibit a CAASPP test examiner from providing each pupil with their first name only and SSID in written or electronic format in order for the pupil to log into the FT? (added 05-Mar-2014)
    No. The regulations prohibit a pupil’s full (i.e., first and last) name and SSID from appearing together in any written or electronic format. For the purposes of CAASPP testing (including the FT), a test examiner may provide each pupil, in a written or electronic format, with his or her first name only and SSID. These two pieces of information, which are required for the pupil to log into the FT, together are considered secure material. Therefore, they must be provided to, and viewable only by, the pupil to whom the login information pertains. In addition, either format in which this information is provided must be returned to the CAASPP test site coordinator immediately after testing for confidential destruction.
For More Information

Questions about the FT should be directed to the CDE California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Office by phone at 916-445-8765 or by e-mail at

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Questions:   California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Office | | 916-445-8765
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