Complete List of Questions
- What is the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)?
- What is California’s role in SBAC?
- What does California's role as a “governing” state involve?
- What will the SBAC provide?
- What are summative assessments?
- What types of items/questions will be on the SBAC summative assessment?
- What are performance task items?
- What are interim assessments?
- Will there be a cost for the optional SBAC interim assessments?
- Will there be SBAC formative processes and tools available?
- Will students below grade three be assessed?
- How does the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) compare to SBAC?
- How will SBAC contribute to student success?
- How many assessment consortia were awarded funds?
- What is SBAC computer adaptive testing?
- Will there be a performance component to the new assessment?
- Why is the CDE switching to a computer adaptive test for grades three through eight?
- How will we get school infrastructure/technology ready for the proposed assessments?
- Are there consortium funds to upgrade district computers to handle computer adaptive assessments?
- What time of year will the new assessments be administered?
- How long will it take a student to complete the summative assessment?
- What is the timeline for implementation?
- How would a longitudinal academic growth model relate to the assessment development work under SBAC?
- How will SBAC results be reported?
- When will schools receive SBAC results?
- Will the SBAC pilot and field test be in addition to the STAR Program?
- Will California test performance-based questions before the official test launch 2014?
- Will the new assessments replace the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE)?
- If there are two pathways to higher-level mathematics, what is the plan for assessing grade eight students not enrolled in Algebra I or Geometry?
- Will SBAC assessments be appropriate for students with severe cognitive disabilities (also known as the 1% population) currently taking the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA)?
- How can I prepare my students for the new assessment?
- How can I get further information and updates regarding SBAC?
- Is there a paper/pencil test option?
- Will SBAC allow the use of calculators on the summative and interim assessments?
- Why is SBAC creating performance tasks for grades 9 and 10 when the summative assessment will only be administered in grade 11?
- How will school districts be chosen to participate in the pilot test?
- When will SMARTER Balanced assessments be implemented in schools?
- Will the SBAC interim assessments be compatible with existing curriculum and instruction system platforms?
- How will teachers be selected to participate in the training cadres for formative assessment starting in 2012-13?
- Will the results from the SBAC summative assessment include both a scale score and a performance category, such as “advanced” or “basic”?
- Twenty states are working to develop next-generation science standards. Will science be incorporated into SBAC’s assessments?
- How will scores on the SBAC assessment support differentiating student performance for the purpose of placement?
- How are teachers involved in creating the SBAC assessment system?
- How can educators get involved in the development and review of items/tasks?
- How will scores on the summative assessment be comparable if some students take it at the beginning of the 12-week administration window, while others are tested at the end?
- Has SBAC decided what proportion of time or number of points will be devoted to performance tasks on the summative assessment?
- How is SBAC defining college and career readiness?
- How flexible—in terms of timing and content—will the optional interim assessments be?
- When will schools and districts know which existing computers will be eligible to be used on the SBAC assessments in 2014-15?
- Will Smarter Balanced assessments be available for private schools in the 2014-15 school year in states that will be using the Smarter Balanced assessments to test public school students?
- Does a shared assessment system require a shared or common curriculum?
- How will teachers be involved in scoring the Smarter Balanced assessments?
- How will states that have amended the Common Core State Standards assess students on these additional content standards?
- How will SBAC validate its college- and career-readiness benchmark?
- To what extent will the assessments measure 21st-century skills?
- Will children with limited computer skills—particularly those in the younger grades—be disadvantaged by an online assessment?
- What are test blueprints?
- Will Smarter Balanced assessments be timed? If so, how will students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or other special needs be impacted?
- Will the Smarter Balanced assessment system be compatible or comparable to assessment systems from other consortia?
- What support will SBAC provide to help states and schools interpret assessment results?
- What is the appropriate use of the items and tasks included in the item specifications?
- How will the performance standard be set for defining college- and career-readiness?
- How will instructional practices and curricula be altered to align with new standards and assessments?
- How will SBAC engage K-12 and higher education in the development of achievement level descriptors?
- What is the schedule for additional data collections through the Technology Readiness Tool?
- Will Smarter Balanced assessments be translated into other languages?
- Will there be training available on the English language arts/literacy rubrics? Will “anchor papers” be made available to use when training teachers?
- Will there be a standards-based report card for students, schools, and districts?
- How can schools participate in the Pilot Test of the assessment system?
- What are achievement level descriptors?
- How will visitors access the sample items and performance tasks?
- How long will it take students to complete the Smarter Balanced summative assessment?
- Will the Smarter Balanced content specifications be updated?
- Why are some of the English language arts/literacy sample items and tasks missing a reading passage?
- When will Smarter Balanced release minimum technology requirements for the assessment system?
Q. What is the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)?
A. "SMARTER" stands for "Summative Multi-state Assessment Resources for Teachers and Educational Researchers." SBAC is a national consortium of 25 states that have been working collaboratively to develop a student assessment system aligned with a common core of academic content standards.
A. On June 9, 2011, California joined SBAC as a governing state. Out of the 25 states participating in SBAC, California is one of the 21 governing states, which are allowed decision-making participation. The remaining 4 states are advisory states.
A. As a governing state, California:
- Has an active role in all SBAC policy decision making
- Provides a representative to serve on the Steering Committee
- Provides state educational agency (SEA) representatives to serve on work groups which include assessment design,
item writing, pilot testing, field testing, research, evaluation, technology development, governance, project management, and communications
- Approves the Steering Committee members and the Executive Committee members
- Participates in the final decision making regarding changes in governance and other official documents, specific design elements, and other issues that may arise
A. Over the course of the four-year grand period, SBAC will develop an assessment system with the following major deliverables:
- Online computer adaptive summative assessments that give a snapshot of student performance without a "one size fits all approach." This type of assessment can be used to describe student achievement and growth of student learning as part of program evaluation and school, district, and state accountability systems. It will measure English-language arts and mathematics in grades three through eight and grade eleven across the full range of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
- Optional interim and formative assessments that help teachers identify the specific needs of each student so they can help students progress toward being college and career ready.
- Teacher involvement at all stages of item and test development, including item writing, scoring, and design of reporting systems. This will ensure that the system works well and that teachers have the opportunity to learn from national experts and from each other as they evaluate students' performance.
- An online tailored reporting system that provide educators access to information about students' progress toward college and career readiness as well as students' specific strengths and weaknesses along the way.
A. An assessment conducted at the end of a certain time period to measure how much learning has occurred during that set time period. Summative assessments provide judgments about student performance and often are used to produce grades or scores. Examples of summative assessments include unit tests, final exams, exit exams, performance tasks, and high-stakes state tests.
A. The SBAC summative assessment will include selected response, constructed response, technology enhanced, and performance task items.
A. Performance tasks provide an opportunity to challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to respond to complex, real-world problems. They can best be described as collections of questions and tasks that are coherently connected to a single theme or scenario. For example, a student may be presented with reading material on a given topic, and then asked questions about the reading. That may be followed by reading on the same topic, but from a different perspective, with questions on that reading plus some compare/contrast questions. Finally, the student may be provided additional readings on the same, or an associated topic, and then asked to take a position on or provide an argument in favor of or opposing a particular perspective, using the provided texts as reference.
A. Interim assessments (also known as benchmark assessments) include medium-scale diagnostic and/or progress monitoring assessments that evaluate students' knowledge and skills relative to a specific set of academic goals within a limited time frame. These types of assessments are designed to provide multiple data points across time and can inform decisions at both the classroom and the school levels or at the district level. Benchmark assessments generally occur between units of instruction.
A. The cost is still under consideration by SBAC and member states.
A. Yes, SBAC will provide on-demand tools and strategies aimed at improving teaching, increasing student learning, and enabling differentiation of instruction. The formative professional development materials available to educators will include model units of instruction, publicly released assessment items, formative strategies, and materials for professional development.
A. SBAC has no plan to assess students below grade three. However, SBAC will develop resources for formative assessment procedures and materials that will be useful at all grade levels and particularly appropriate for instruction for younger students.
A. SBAC provides a "next generation" assessment system designed to measure student performance on the Common Core State Standards starting in 2014. The SBAC assessments and results that are comparable across states at the student level, meet internationally rigorous benchmarks, and allow valid measures of student longitudinal growth.
NAEP is a nationally representative and continuing assessment that measures student progress in various subject areas over a long period of time. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history. NAEP does not provide scores for individual students or schools. NAEP results are based on representative samples of students in grades four, eight, and twelve for the main assessments, or samples of students at ages nine, thirteen, or seventeen years for the long-term trend assessments.
A. The work of SBAC is guided by the belief that student learning will result when a high-quality assessment system provides support for ongoing improvements in instruction and learning. This “high-quality assessment system” includes the valid assessment of deep disciplinary understanding and higher-order thinking skills. These rigorous, internationally benchmarked assessments will report on how each student has been progressing toward and is currently performing on a pathway to college and career readiness. The test scores also may be used to help identify professional development needs of teachers and principals.
A. Two assessment consortia were awarded funds. SBAC was awarded $160 million. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) was awarded $170 million. An additional $15.9 million was awarded to each consortium for the purpose of helping all participating states with the transition to common core and next generation assessments.
A. This type of testing is a form of computer based testing that adapts to the student’s ability level. The SBAC summative assessments are being developed for use with technology known as computer adaptive testing (CAT). The CAT assessment "engine" begins by delivering a short series of moderately difficult grade-level test items to the student, and then, depending on the student’s initial performance, delivers items that are either more or less difficult. This process continues until the student’s level of proficiency is determined.
With CAT, every student essentially receives a unique assessment, eliminating the need to test all students at one time. Schools will be able to group and assess students in a configuration that matches their specific capacity. CAT also permits a much longer assessment window to run all the students through the assessment. This will allow California to move into the next generation of computer-delivered assessments without causing disadvantages to some schools because of limited bandwidth or computers-to-students ratio.
A. Yes. At this point, SBAC is designing one performance task for reading, one for writing, and two for mathematics in each of grades three through eight and eleven. The performance tasks are delivered by computer but are not computer adaptive. Any of the performance tasks could take more than one sitting of 45–60 minutes to complete.
A. One of the advantages of computer adaptive testing is that it is more efficient than fixed-form testing, requiring fewer questions to accurately determine each student’s achievement level. An adaptive assessment provides information about the full range of learning. A paper and pencil test is confined to the content within the printed document. Student results are likewise confined to the grade level tested. In contrast, an adaptive assessment provides information that goes into more depth within the grade level as well as information outside of the grade level. This type of information is important for classroom educators to plan teaching and learning opportunities. Because the adaptive assessment provides information both deeper within and outside of grade level, the precision of the scores is more accurate. An adaptive assessment also offers faster results, with the turnaround time of weeks rather months.
A. An online dynamic and interactive technology readiness tool to support transitions and implementation has been developed on behalf of the assessment consortia. This tool will help member SEAs and local educational agencies (LEAs) as they evaluate their current infrastructure and technology in terms of readiness for implementing the SBAC assessment system and identify strategies updating their technology on the basis of gaps identified. The tool went live in spring 2012.
A. No. SBAC was funded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop assessments that “ . . . are valid, support and inform instruction, provide accurate information about what students know and can do, and measure student achievement against standards designed to ensure that all students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workplace.” None of the consortium funds may be used for SEA or LEA technology upgrades or purchases.
A. The summative assessment will be given at the end of the school year. The details of the exact length of the testing window have yet to be determined. It is anticipated that each student will have up to two opportunities to test in order to demonstrate proficiency. This allows schools to plan testing around a schedule that works for them, given available computer resources. The adaptive nature of the online assessment components (not including performance tasks) allows for flexibility in the testing window. Interim (benchmark) assessments will be available online throughout the school year. Formative tools and resources for informal classroom assessment will be available for educators–from an online digital library—to use as needed to inform classroom-level planning and improve individual student outcomes.
A. The end-of-year summative assessment that is used for accountability purposes consists of two parts: (1) a computer adaptive portion and (2) performance tasks in reading, writing, and mathematics. It is anticipated that the computer adaptive test will be similar in length or shorter than the current summative tests, which take about an hour for each content area. The exact test length will be determined by member states, educators, and technical advisors over the next year.
A. Initial analysis of the content and structure of the CCSS was conducted from December 2010 to February 2011. Assessment design and item writing will be conducted through 2012. Field test development and pilot testing will take place in 2012–13. Field testing will take place 2013–14. Beginning with the 2014–15 school year, the SBAC ’s tests will be operational and ready to use as federal accountability assessments.
A. Reporting student growth is a priority for SBAC. SBAC's objective is to produce a uniform growth measure for all assessments that will describe a student‘s relative growth and the magnitude of growth expected, given the student’s prior achievement; compare a student's growth relative to that of his or her academic peers, provide information about the degree to which students are on track toward college and career readiness; and accurately measure growth across the full performance distribution.
SBAC has not determined a particular scale or analytic approach. Rather, in designing and developing the assessment system, SBAC will ensure that the components necessary for measuring growth are in place (e.g., identified learning progressions, vertically articulated performance standards, a process to decide whether to measure growth from year to year or within years). SBAC will review existing state growth measures, such as the student growth percentile method or vertical scale used in some member states.
A. Details about how results will be reported are yet to be determined, but growth and attainment both will be reported for the summative assessment. The benchmark assessment likely will report both attainment and growth information as well. The formative processes and tools being developed will be classroom strategies and will not provide formal results; rather, they will provide information for educators to conider when making decisions about instruction.
A. The final summative score from the SBAC assessment system will combine CAT results with results from two or three performance assessments administered at designated intervals throughout the school year. That score will be released in late spring. However, CAT technology provides a summary score almost immediately, and because teachers will be involved in the scoring of performance tasks, those results will be available very soon after the assessment is completed.
A. Yes, the SBAC pilot and field testing will be in addition to the STAR Program, which currently is authorized until July 1, 2014.
A. As a governing state, California has committed to participate in the pilot and field testing of all assessment system components in 2012–13 and 2013–14.
A. Current law states that students must pass the CAHSEE to receive a high school diploma, and that requirement cannot change without a change in law. However, Assembly Bill 250 (2011, Brownley), recently signed by the Governor, requires the State Superintendent to develop recommendations, to be reported to the fiscal and appropriate policy committees of both houses of the legislature, on or before November 1, 2012. The bill defines “high-quality assessment,” lists specific stakeholder groups the CDE must consult with in developing the recommendations, and lists 16 areas the recommendations shall consider. One of the areas to be considered is minimizing testing time while not jeopardizing the validity, reliability, fairness, or instructional usefulness of the assessment results.
A. SBAC is developing an assessment that is aligned to the grade eight CCSS. It would not prohibit a student from taking an Algebra course or a Geometry course, but there will not necessarily be a corresponding SBAC assessment for that course.
A. Students with significant cognitive disabilities (1%) will not be assessed with the SBAC assessments and will still take the California Alternate Performance Assessment. However, the CAPA, as the alternate assessment for the California Standards Tests, will be reviewed in the transition to the next generation of assessments.
A. The best way to prepare students for the new assessment is to provide them with a robust curriculum of instructional units specifically articulated to the CCSS. Educators should discuss curricula with staff in grade levels above and below them to ensure that students are receiving a fluent learning transition from grade to grade.
A. SBAC updates will be available on the CDE SBAC Web page. The CDE also maintains an electronic mailing list found on the CDE SBAC Web page. If you prefer to receive more frequent SBAC updates, bookmark the SBAC Web site , which is updated regularly. To receive press releases and other announcements from SBAC, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
A: Yes. SBAC will make a paper-and-pencil administration option for the summative assessment available to states for three years following the launch of the assessment system (through 2016-17). The paper-and-pencil option is designed to help bridge the transition to online assessments for states where access to computers for test administration remains a challenge in 2014-15.
Consistent with the SBAC application to the U.S. Department of Education, any additional costs with the administration of the paper-and-pencil assessment will be borne by states electing to use this option. Both turnaround time for results and administration costs depend on several as yet unknown factors, including how much hand-scoring will be necessary. For example, costs would likely be lower—and turnaround faster—if constructed-response items can reliably be converted to a digital format and scored using the automated scoring engine. SBAC will continue to keep states informed of the expected cost of the paper-and-pencil administration as the summative assessment is developed and field tested.
Regarding comparability, many states have used paper-and-pencil and online assessments side by side with little difference in the scaling of scores. The paper-and-pencil and CAT assessments both will adhere to the same blueprint, and SBAC will verify the validity and comparability of the two tests during standard setting. While it is true that the CAT will assess a broader range of skills than the paper-and-pencil test, SBAC fully expects that the overall scores will be comparable.
A. A decision has yet to be made on the use of calculators with the assessment system. SBAC intends to work with member states, the Technical Advisory Committee, and such partners as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to inform its policy on the use of calculators. This is a complex issue. One of the core tenets of the CCSS for mathematics is that students must develop mathematical fluency—speed and accuracy with simple calculations. On the other hand, the standards encourage students to use appropriate tools—including calculators—strategically when solving problems. Fortunately, balancing these priorities is aided by the use of CAT. SBAC will be able to provide tools (or no tools, as the case may be) at the item level through the online interface. This not only ensures that tools are appropriate to the task, it also levels the playing field so that students are not advantaged or disadvantaged by virtue of the sophistication of their calculators.
A. Included in SBAC’s proposal to the U.S. Department of Education is a commitment to develop “up to six performance tasks by grade eleven for both ELA and mathematics.” Governing states considered the possibility that at least some of those performance tasks might need to be administered before grade eleven. SBAC governing states agreed to the provision regarding performance tasks as one means by which the CCSS might be covered, while minimizing the impact on students’ grade eleven instructional time. Whether performance tasks will be administered in grades nine and ten —and the particular way in which the performance tasks would roll out for those grades nine and ten —is still in development and will require careful consideration by several of SBAC’s work groups and the governing states. SBAC anticipates that these issues will be resolved through the test specifications development process, which began in early 2012.
A. In early 2013, a pilot test of the assessment system will be conducted in a sample of school districts to ensure technical adequacy and fairness of items and tasks for all student populations. The sampling plan for the pilot test will be developed in collaboration with member states and the contractor for Requstion for Proposals number nineteen test administration, expected to be selected this spring. This approach will identify schools that include a representative sample of students and that have sufficient technology resources to pilot the assessments.
A. In its grant application to the U.S. Department of Education, SBAC committed to a timeline that would deliver the assessments to states by the 2014-15 school year. As SBAC began work, specific steps were taken to ensure that this goal would be met. The SBAC summative assessment Master Work Plan outlines the development of each component of the assessment system. It is available on the SBAC Summative Assessment Master Work Plan Web page
for download. SBAC updates the work plan regularly to reflect changes in the status of contracts and decisions made by governing states. However, the SBAC overall timeline remains the same, and SBAC is on track with the goal of providing a fully functioning assessment system to schools for the 2014–15 school year.
Over the next two years, SBAC will conduct a pilot test (spring 2013) and a broader field test (spring 2014) to prepare for the launch of the assessment system. Details about participation in these tests are forthcoming. To keep up to date on opportunities for participating in SBAC pilot and field testing, follow us on the CDE SBAC Web page.
A. SBAC is committed to developing an assessment system that uses open-source technology and standard protocols whenever possible to promote compatibility with existing systems. Additional information about the IT system architecture is available in the Assessment System Architecture and Technology Phase 1 Report . However, SBAC has not yet made a decision regarding how the interim assessments and formative assessment practices will be made available after the system is implemented in the 2014–15 school year. SBAC will work closely with member states as these platforms are developed to ensure that the assessment system meets the needs of schools and educators.
A. SBAC is committed to involving teachers in the development and vetting of formative assessment practices and professional learning opportunities that are a critical component of a balanced assessment system focused on improving teaching and learning. Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, SBAC will support each state's convening of an average of 90 teachers for a total of five days to participate in trainings on professional development modules related to the assessment system, and to select formative practices and tools for inclusion in the digital library. Detailed information regarding how teachers may get involved will be forthcoming.
A. Results from the SBAC assessment will include both a scale score that can be used to assess year-to-year growth and an achievement level category. The results of the grade eleven assessment will provide an indicator of college and career readiness. The number and names of the achievement categories are SBAC-level decisions that have not yet been determined; these decisions will be made by the SBAC governing states. The SBAC proposal to the U.S. Department of Education also set forth a procedure for establishing and validating achievement standards (cut scores). Following the field test in spring 2014, SBAC will conduct standard setting for the summative assessments in grades three through eight and grade eleven in English-language arts/literacy and mathematics. These performance standards will be validated in July/August 2015 using spring 2015 operational data.
A. SBAC will not include science assessments at the time of implementation in 2014-15. However, it is likely that the online test delivery options selected by states (or SBAC) will support the delivery of online test science assessments in the future—particularly in cases in which the science assessments are composed of selected response items. SBAC will continue to monitor the development and adoption of science standards.
A. A primary feature of the SBAC system is the commitment by higher education institutions to recognize an agreed-upon performance level on the grade eleven summative assessment as one piece of evidence that students are ready for entry-level, credit-bearing coursework in English and mathematics and can be exempted from remedial or developmental coursework. If students score at the college-ready level and wish to take more advanced courses, additional information would be needed to make specific course placement decisions. Likewise, if students score below the college-ready level, a placement test or diagnostic assessment may be needed to determine their developmental needs.
A. SBAC is committed to engaging teachers over the next three years to design an assessment system that provides resources and information to improve teaching and learning. Teachers will contribute to the development of assessment items for the pilot and field tests. Teams of teachers from each state will evaluate the formative tools and resources that will be available through the assessment system. SBAC will provide professional development for teams of teachers from member states for using the assessments. Finally, teachers will score parts of the assessments, including extended response and performance tasks.
More information about opportunities presented at the national level can be found on the SBAC Web site . CDE also maintains an electronic mailing list found on the CDE SBAC Web page. All notifications for opportunities for SBAC involvement at the national level will be sent out through the CDE SBAC mailing list.
A. In March 2012, SBAC awarded RFP-14 Pilot Item/Task/Stimulus Research, Development, and Reviews to CTB/McGraw-Hill. Through this contract, SBAC will research the performance of innovative items and tasks through cognitive labs and limited field trials; develop the first 10,000 items and tasks (out of the total 47,000) for pilot testing in spring 2013; and analyze the results. The contractor will hire and train educators from SBAC states to write and review items and tasks for content, bias, and sensitivity based on the guidelines being developed through RFP-04 Item specifications. Details about how teachers can apply for item/task writing and item/task review positions will be available shortly. Information about how schools can volunteer to participate in the pilot testing in spring 2013 will be available in summer 2012. SBAC will field test its full array of its 47,000 items and tasks in spring 2014. Teacher recruitment for writing those items/tasks and for participation in the field testing will occur in the 2013-14 school year.
A. The summative assessment will be administered during the last 12 weeks of the school year. This administration window is designed to allow states and school districts the flexibility they need to ensure that all students have access to the technology resources required to administer the assessment. However, depending on the school year calendar and technology capacity at the local level, it also means that some students could take the summative assessment weeks earlier than others. SBAC will continue to evaluate the impact of the summative assessment administration window on student scores during the pilot test (early 2013) and the field test (early 2014) to determine whether adjustments in scoring or administration are necessary.
A. SBAC is working with member states to ensure that the design of the summative assessment provides adequate information about student achievement and growth in meeting the English language arts/literacy and mathematics claims. Although it is still too early in the test design process to make definitive statements, it looks as though performance tasks could comprise about half of the time students spend taking the summative assessment because these activities are meant to measure capacities such as depth of understanding, writing and research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with selected- or constructed-response items. However, they will likely provide a somewhat smaller proportion of the total points for the summative assessment
A. SBAC is developing assessments aligned to the full depth and breadth of the CCSS. Through its member states, and in consultation with the lead standards writers and other national education experts, SBAC is translating the CCSS into assessment targets, test blueprints, and, ultimately, assessment items and performance tasks. SBAC also will establish performance benchmarks that define the level of content and skill mastery that marks students as college and career ready. These performance benchmarks will be determined through a deliberative and evidence-based standard-setting process, which will include input from K-12 educators and college and university faculty. Setting performance standards will not occur until 2014, after student data have been collected through pilot and field testing. SBAC has begun the process of translating the standards into assessments, releasing content specifications in English-language arts/literacy and mathematics, and approving the core claims about student knowledge and skills that the assessments will seek to measure.
A. The SBAC optional interim assessments are designed to provide educators with actionable information about student progress throughout the year. The interim assessments will include the same types of items and performance tasks as the summative assessment, drawn from a nonsecure item bank. The timing and frequency of the interim assessments will be determined locally. In addition, teachers will have the option of administering a comprehensive interim assessment that mirrors the content of the summative assessment or selecting one or more content clusters to assess specific elements of the grade-level CCSS.
A. The decision about legacy operating systems will be informed by the data received from the Technology Readiness Tool. The first data collection for the survey closes in June 2012. SBAC expects to complete its analysis of the data by July 2012 and will vet among the SBAC member states a comprehensive approach to the use of legacy systems by mid-August 2012.
A: Access to the Smarter Balanced assessments for private schools is one of a number of implementation issues being addressed by the SBAC Sustainability Task Force. This task force will provide recommendations regarding how states will procure, administer, and maintain the Smarter Balanced assessment system after the federal grant ends in October 2014. This work is associated with RFP-22, Organization Development and Business Process Consulting. More information is posted at the SBAC Jobs-Contracts Web page . Recommendations from the task force are expected later this year.
A: No. SBAC believes that curriculum decisions are best made by educators at the local and state levels. States participating in SBAC will have access to professional development materials and instructional resources for teachers through a digital library. These tools are optional and can be used, as needed, to complement state curriculum supports to districts and teachers.
A: SBAC is committed to involving teachers throughout the development and implementation of the assessment system. While many assessment components are efficiently scored with computer assistance, teachers will be involved in scoring portions of the summative assessment—including 10 percent of computer-scored, constructed-response items as back reads, and hand-scoring of items that cannot be scored by computer. These scoring activities provide an opportunity to deepen understanding of the Common Core State Standards and assessment practices. Teachers will not score assessments from their state, and those involved in scoring will be compensated through their state’s normal procedures. For the optional interim assessments, selected-response and technology-enhanced items will be machine scored. To the extent practicable, constructed-response items will also be scored through automated technologies, and items that cannot be scored by computer will be scored locally. Performance tasks will have some components that are scored by computer and others that require human scoring.
A: States adopting the Common Core State Standards may choose to amend the standards with up to 15 percent additional content. While SBAC’s primary responsibility is to develop an assessment system aligned with the final version of the standards released in June 2010, the ability to assess these additional standards is an important concern for states. The SBAC IT Systems Architecture specifies the use of open-source technology and standard protocols whenever possible, with the goal of proving flexibility for states—including the expected ability to incorporate state-developed items that assess these additional content standards into the assessment. As key technology components are developed—including the item bank, test engine, test delivery, and reporting systems—SBAC will rely on input from member states, SBAC work groups, and the Architecture Review Board to ensure that the assessment system meets state needs.
A: A substantial research program has been designed and is being refined to validate and make adjustments to the college- and career-ready standard after full-scale administration begins in 2014-15. Because of the rigorous standard-setting process planned, it is anticipated that the initial college- and career-ready benchmark will be predictive of student performance in the first year of college. Nonetheless, it will be important to validate the standard, and make any necessary adjustments, once postsecondary performance data are available for students who have taken the SBAC assessments. If possible, the standard-setting process may also incorporate preliminary findings from member states that make college coursework available to high school students or that administer the assessment to a sample of first-year college students. The details for most of these research efforts, however, have not yet been fully determined.
A: The SBAC system will measure the full depth and breadth of the Common Core State Standards in ELA/literacy and mathematics. The authors of the Common Core explicitly focused on the cognitive skills and knowledge that students need to be ready to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing, academic college courses and in workforce training programs. Critical-thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills are a major focus in the standards. Through innovative items and performance tasks, SBAC will measure these important skills.
However, the Common Core authors also note that the standards are not meant to encompass everything a student should learn, or describe all of the skills that students need in the 21st century. Indeed, academic readiness—as defined by the Common Core—is only part of a more comprehensive set of knowledge and skills that contribute to college and career readiness, such as work habits, persistence, and postsecondary planning.
A: SBAC is developing an assessment system that accurately measures achievement and growth for all students—regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, or background. To achieve this goal, SBAC must eliminate or minimize factors that could distract students from the ability to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. There are several steps SBAC is taking to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by the technology of next-generation assessments:
- SBAC is conducting cognitive lab research to learn how students across a range of grades approach and interact with different types of computer-administered items. This will inform the development of both assessment items and the test delivery system.
- SBAC has developed accessibility guidelines to ensure that items and tasks are designed to work well for as many students as possible, with appropriate accommodations available based on the needs of individual students. It is likely that some accommodations—such as the ability to highlight text—will be available to all students.
- SBAC’s approach to a balanced assessment system—that includes optional interim assessments—will allow students to become familiar with the test interface before taking the summative assessment.
- While eliminating distractions and creating an accessible test interface are critical, it is important to remember that the CCSS will emphasize proficiency with technology. For example, the 4th grade writing standard calls for students to “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.” Administering assessments by computer is a part of ensuring that schools and teachers can measure mastery of the full range of the standards
A: A test blueprint provides detailed specifications for a student assessment. The blueprint describes the purpose of the assessment, what content will be covered—in this case, the SBAC Content Specifications—and the proportions of the test devoted to each topic. It also includes the approximate test length and technical details related to scoring. In collaboration with work groups and experts, SBAC is developing test blueprints for the summative assessment in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, which are now being reviewed by SBAC member states.
A: The amount of time that students will work on the assessments will be defined in terms of “sessions.” The length of each session will be based on the amount of time it takes most students—90–95 percent of students—to complete that portion of the assessment. Certainly, there will be students who need additional time, and they will be afforded the opportunity to do so. Additional time to complete the assessment is one of many accommodations that will be available for students with special needs. Member states are collaborating on an accessibility policy framework that will detail how a range of accommodations will be made available.
A: SBAC is collaborating with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to ensure that there is comparability across the two assessments at the proficiency cut score for every grade. Both consortia will jointly engage with technical and policy advisors to study cross-consortia comparability.
A: SBAC will develop web-based professional learning tools for teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders to understand how to access and interpret Smarter Balanced interim and summative score reports. As part of this work, SBAC will convene state leadership teams charged with recruiting an average of 100 educators per state to form state networks of educators. These educator networks will provide feedback on the development of formative assessment resources and professional learning tools. They will also serve as ambassadors to help states engage stakeholders with resources and trainings to understand and interpret assessment results. Additional information is available in the Formative Assessment Master Work Plan .
A: The item specifications and review documents are technical documents that contain a number of examples intended to guide writers and reviewers in the development of high-quality assessment items and performance tasks. They can be helpful to educators for understanding the various item types, as well as the appropriate level of difficulty at different grade ranges described by the SBAC Content Specifications and the Common Core State Standards. So, they are essentially illustrations of the kinds of items and tasks that the Consortium would like item developers to produce. However, they do not necessarily stand on their own as “exemplary” SBAC items and tasks. For that reason, items and tasks found in the item specifications are not intended to be given to students as practice questions, nor used by teachers as representing the full range of what the Smarter Balanced assessments will look like.
SBAC is working with educators from Governing States this summer and fall to develop items and performance tasks for the Pilot Test in early 2013. The development of these items and tasks is being informed by the cognitive labs, and they will be rigorously reviewed against the guidelines established in the item specifications. An early outcome of our item development will be sets of “Item and Task Samplers” for grades 3–5, 6–8, and high school. The posting of these samplers to the SBAC website, slated for early September, will be announced in the Weekly Update.
A: Higher education leads will work with college and university faculty to play a very active role in this process, with higher education representatives playing a primary role in establishing college- and career-ready standards for the 11th grade assessment. In addition to expert judgment from K-12 teachers and higher education faculty, SBAC will draw upon multiple sources of empirical data to guide the setting of performance standards, including: international and national benchmarks such as Program for International Student Assessment, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, National Assessment of Education Progress, SAT Reasoning Test and American College Test.
Q: How will instructional practices and curricula be altered to align with new standards and assessments?
A: SBAC believes that a balanced, high-quality assessment system can improve teaching and learning by providing information and tools for teachers and schools to help students succeed. Timely and meaningful assessment information can offer specific information about areas of performance so that teachers can follow up with targeted instruction, students can better target their own efforts, and administrators and policymakers can more fully understand what students know and can do, in order to guide curriculum and professional development decisions. The SBAC theory of action articulates this vision. In addition, access to professional development materials and instructional resources for teachers through a digital library will be available. These tools are optional and can be used, as needed, to complement curriculum support to districts and teachers.
Q: How will SBAC engage K-12 and higher education in the development of achievement level descriptors?
A: SBAC has developed a collaborative process for drafting initial achievement level descriptors (ALDs) in collaboration with K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, and content experts. Governing States will nominate four K-12 educators—two for English Language Arts (ELA)/literacy and two for mathematics at various grade spans—to participate in an ALD drafting workshop in October. In addition, Higher Education Leads will nominate two faculty members (one with experience in ELA/literacy and one with experience in mathematics). From this group, a total of 53 representatives will be selected for the October workshop. Every Governing State will have at least one K-12 and one higher education representative participating in the workshop. Those not selected will have an early opportunity to review the draft ALDs. Just as important as reaching consensus among member states on the ALDs is reaching consensus within states between K-12 and higher education. A two-month period from mid-November through mid-January will allow states to vet the ALDs with stakeholders at all levels.
Q: What is the schedule for additional data collections through the Technology Readiness Tool?
A: Earlier this year, SBAC and PARCC collaborated to launch the Technology Readiness Tool, a project designed to help states plan for the transition to online assessments. The first data collection window served as a baseline inventory of technology and supporting infrastructure that will inform policy and improvements of the tool. Subsequent data collection is scheduled for fall 2012, spring 2013, fall 2013, spring 2014, and summer 2014. Additional information will be available through State Readiness Coordinators.
A: As part of the Race to the Top Assessment Program application, SBAC made a commitment to translate the mathematics interim and summative assessments into five languages — including Spanish and sign language. SBAC is developing a translations framework to guide this work. It is important to note, however, that translation is just one way to help ensure that the assessments accurately measure the knowledge and skills of English language learners. SBAC is focused on including construct-relevant language in our math items, which minimizes the appearance of construct-irrelevant language use. All assessment items and performance tasks will go through a bias and sensitivity review. In addition, the assessments will include accessibility and accommodations options that will help English language learners while taking the assessment.
A: As part of the development of formative assessment practices and strategies, SBAC will create a digital library of professional development materials, resources, and tools aligned to the Common Core State Standards and SBAC claims and assessment targets. The digital library will include professional development materials related to all components of the assessment system, such as scoring rubrics and work samples. More information about the development of formative assessment tools and resources is available in the Formative Assessment Master Work Plan (PDF).
A: SBAC is developing a secure, online reporting system that will provide assessment results to students, parents, teachers, and administrators. The reports — differentiated by audience — will show student achievement and progress toward college and career readiness as measured by the claims in English language arts (ELA)/literacy and mathematics, which are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Information about the claims is available in the SBAC ELA/Literacy and Mathematics Content Specifications . Reports will likely provide more detailed information at the classroom and school level. For example, on the writing claim, it may be difficult to report sub-scores within writing — such as organization or style — at the student level, but it may be possible to do so across a larger number of students at classroom or school level.
A: SBAC will conduct a Pilot Test of the assessment system beginning in February 2013. The Pilot Test will include more than 10,000 items and performance tasks currently under development and will provide information about how these items and tasks perform in a real-world setting. Participation in the Pilot Test will be open to all schools in the Consortium and will include students from grades 3-8 and 11. Additional information about how to participate in the Pilot Test will be made available to states in fall 2012.
A: Achievement level descriptors (ALDs) are text statements that articulate the knowledge, skills, and abilities represented at different categories of performance on the Smarter Balanced assessments, including the college- and career-ready category for the high school assessment. They describe how students are progressing toward mastery of the Common Core State Standards and provide clear explanations of student performance for policymakers, educators, and parents. SBAC has developed an inclusive, collaborative process for drafting initial ALDs in collaboration with K-12 teachers and higher education faculty nominated by member states, as well as content experts. Draft ALDs will be available for feedback during a four-month comment period later this year. Preliminary ALDs are expected to be finalized by March 2013 by Governing States.
A: SBAC sample items and performance tasks will be accessed through the SBAC Web site beginning October 9. The samples will be displayed in a simulated test platform that will allow users to interact with and score selected items and tasks. The site will be compatible with common Internet browsers, and a full list of compatible browsers will be available. In addition, SBAC is working with software developers to convert graphics into a format that is compatible with popular tablet devices. Regardless of the requirements to access the sample items and tasks, a variety of eligible computers and tablet devices will be compatible with the operational assessment in the 2014-15 school year. Additional information is available in the Smarter Balanced new hardware purchasing guidelines .
A: The length of the summative assessment has not yet been decided. This fall, Governing States will be asked to review and approve the summative assessment design, which encompasses test length, reporting categories, and the test blueprint. Test length is influenced by several factors, including the amount of content that the test assesses. The Common Core ELA/literacy standards cover writing and speaking and listening. This represents a much broader range of content than most statewide reading assessments cover today. Smarter Balanced will assess the depth and breadth of the Common Core to provide a richer picture of student achievement.In addition, the summative assessment is made up of the computer adaptive test (CAT) and performance tasks that are delivered by computer but are not adaptive. Computer adaptive testing is more efficient than fixed-form tests, requiring fewer questions to produce a more accurate picture of a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Performance tasks—which may require one to two class periods to complete—will be used to better measure capacities such as depth of understanding, research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with selected- or constructed-response items. The length of both of these components will determine the overall test length.
Q: Will the Smarter Balanced content specifications be updated?
A: Earlier this year, Smarter Balanced Governing States approved content claims in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The claims are the central, organizing themes of the content specifications, and can be found in those documents. The purpose of the content specifications was to analyze the Common Core State Standards through an assessment lens, to make declarations about what the Smarter Balanced assessments will say about student achievement, and to describe the kinds of evidence we will look for as manifestations of that achievement.
The Smarter Balanced item/task specifications — which define the characteristics of items and tasks that will appear on the Smarter Balanced assessments — were based on the content specifications. Our service providers are using the item/task specifications to write items and tasks for the Pilot Test that will occur this spring. We have encouraged item writers to make note of ways to strengthen and clarify the item/task specifications, and they can be viewed as a somewhat dynamic set of documents that we will continue to improve.
However, the content specifications, being the basis for the item/task specifications, will remain in their current form through the development of the 2014-15 assessment. Once we complete our first or second year of implementation, it may be appropriate to revisit the content specifications. At that time, we will have gathered substantial information on student performance, and we should know much more about how items and tasks work in an online environment, as well as what we can expect from different scoring strategies. This new information will certainly inform the statements of the kinds of evidence we seek in our assessments.
Overviews of the current content claims are available on the Consortium’s website:
Q: Why are some of the English language arts/literacy sample items and tasks
missing a reading passage?
A: The sample English language arts/literacy items and performance tasks include a mixture of published and commissioned reading passages and sources. Smarter Balanced has not obtained permission to reprint copyrighted passages and source documents referenced in the sample items. As a result, several sample items and performance tasks — Planes on the Brain 1–3, Animal Defenses, and Garden—include only the citations for copyrighted material, rather than the complete text. For the operational assessment in the 2014–15 school year, Smarter Balanced intends to use primarily published passages — reflecting the emphasis in the Common Core on exposure to “high-quality, increasingly challenging literary and informational texts” — and the full text of these passages will be available to students.
A: Smarter Balanced is developing a Technology Strategy Framework & System Requirements Specifications document that will be released later this fall. The requirements are informed by the results of the first data collection through the Technology Readiness Tool, as well as ongoing work with our test delivery system contractor. States will soon be able to use the Technology Readiness Tool to conduct a gap analysis comparing existing resources to requirements for administering the assessment system in the 2014-15 school year.