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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: May 7, 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.

For policy related questions, contact the CAASPP Office at 916-445-8765 or
For technical questions, contact the CalTAC Help Desk at 800-955-2954 or


  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.

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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:
  • Grades three through eight: All students are expected to participate.

  • Grades nine and ten: Only students selected for the scientific sample are expected to participate.

  • Grade eleven: All students selected for the scientific sample are expected to participate. All other students are encouraged to participate. (Please note that all grade eleven students, including those who participate in the FT, may participate in the Early Assessment Program.)

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/literacy (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 California Department of Education (CDE) and Educational Testing Services (ETS).

  3. For the Field Test, how does an LEA handle the issue of students without SSIDs? (added 25-April-2014)
    When an LEA enrolls or learns of students without SSIDs, the SSIDs must be requested through the procedures outlined under CALPADS SSID and Enrollment Procedures. Once the SSIDs are obtained for these students, the students can be scheduled to participate in the Field Test as long as the date is within the testing window for the school.

  4. Which LEA holds responsibility for the students placed in a nonpublic school (NPS)? (added 25-April-2014)
    The LEA that placed the students in the NPS has responsibility for those students.

  5. Can site administrators, including those at NPSs, have test administrator access? (added 25-April-2014)
    Yes. All site administrators have test administrator access.

  6. Will the CDE provide a template for LEAs to use with NPSs and directions on how to coordinate with out-of-state NPSs? (added 25-April-2014)
    No. According to the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 851, this is the responsibility of the LEAs. For additional information, please follow the information in the Test Administrator Manual External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

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Technology Requirements

  1. Whom should an LEA contact if it needs to upgrade its technology to be compatible with the Smarter Balanced operational tests? (updated 07-May-2014)
    The LEA should contact the CalTAC Help Desk at 800-955-2954 or

  2. 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.

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  1. How are 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. Are LEAs be required to provide any student information as part of the registration process? (updated 07-May-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.

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Administration Logistics

  1. When does the FT occur? (updated 07-May-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 is tested in the FT? (updated 07-May-2014)
    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 does will the FT take to administer? (updated 07-May-2014)
    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. What does the term “stimulus” refer to in test items—the question, the reading passage, or both? (updated 07-May-2014)
    The stimulus may be any text, including reading passages that the student reads before answering the test item. A test item is a test question, a reading passage, or a performance task.

  7. Is 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.

  8. Is 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.

  9. Is the use of scratch paper 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.

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(added 07-May-2014)

  1. What is the fastest way to get a replacement password for a site coordinator or a test administrator?
    This must be done by contacting the CalTAC Help Desk at 800-955-2954 or

  2. What is the “streamlined interface” accommodation allowed in TIDE?
    The streamlined interface accommodation provides students with an alternate display of the item and stimulus with more white space and a separation of instructions from the question.

  3. Where in TIDE can LEAs indicate that a student was opted out from testing?
    Currently, TIDE does not have capability for LEAs to specify that a student did not test because of parental opt-out. Please be aware that parent exemptions from testing are currently not reported through CALPADS. Per state law, as a condition to receiving apportionment funding, LEAs will be required to track and provide to the CDE the number of parent exemptions by grade for each student not tested with any portion of the required Smarter Balanced field test, CSTs in science, CMA in science, or CAPA assessments. This information will be collected through the 2014 CAASP Apportionment Information Report in October 2014. More information regarding these apportionment reports will be provided in October 2014.

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Student Supports for the Smarter Balanced Field Tests

(added 07-May-2014)

  1. Which accommodations are 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.

  2. Generating the Braille version of the Smarter Balanced Field Test requires the use of a very expensive printer. If an LEA has a student who requires a Braille version, may this student be tested in another LEA that has the special printer? (added 07-May-2014)
    Yes. The test administrator from the student’s LEA should accompany the student to the site where testing will take place and log in to create a test session from that location.

  3. What is the difference between text-to-speech and read-aloud, as allowed on the Field Test? (updated 07-May-2014)
    “Text-to-speech” refers to an embedded designated support or accommodation in which the text of the item or passages, depending on the subject and grade, is read aloud to the student via embedded technology and delivered to the student through headphones. Text-to-speech does not require a separate setting. “Read-aloud” refers to a non-embedded version of the same designated support or accommodation in which the text is read to the student by a human reader. The read-aloud must be administered in a separate setting to allow for one-to-one administration without disturbing other students being tested.

  4. Are there specific qualifications that a “reader” has to meet for the read-aloud designated support or accommodation? (added 07-May-2014)
    Please see the Guidelines for Read Aloud, Test Reader External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), which provide guidelines and training requirements for the readers. Also see the CAASPP regulations (sections 850–68).

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Parents and Guardians

(added 07-May-2014)

  1. Where can parents and/or guardians find information about the Smarter Balanced Field Test?
    Parents and/or guardians can go to the Students/Parents tab on the Spring 2014 Smarter Balanced Web page to find out more information about the Smarter Balanced Field Test.

  2. What procedures are in place to ensure student privacy for the Smarter Balanced Field Test?
    Federal and state privacy laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 2001 (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232g) (FERPA), ensure privacy in all CAASPP assessments. The student-level data used to evaluate the responses of California students to the Smarter Balanced field-test questions are stripped of personally identifiable information and encrypted prior to being shared with the Smarter Balanced consortium.

  3. Is it sufficient for a parent to indicate, in writing, that his or her child is to be opted out from the Smarter Balanced Field Test, or must the parent specify English-language arts and/or mathematics?
    Yes, it is sufficient for a parent to indicate that his or her child is to be opted out from the Smarter Balanced Field Test. If the parent is requesting an opt-out for a specific test only, the test should be specifically listed.
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
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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