Every week the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) sends an SBAC Weekly Update to all the states in the Consortium. Each update includes a question related to the assessment system sent by a member state and answered by Joe Wilhoft, SBAC’s executive director. The Department of Education will post each weekly question and answer with most recent at the top.
No. We believe that
curriculum decisions are best made by educators at the local and state levels.
States participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium 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.
These blueprints are
referred to as “preliminary” because they establish assessment design features
that may be subject to refinement and revision after the analysis of Pilot and
Field testing. Final blueprints for the Smarter Balanced summative
assessments will be adopted by Governing States prior to full implementation in
the 2014-15 school year.
The Technology Approach
Work Group collaborated with member states, as well as Navigation North,
American Institutes for Research, Measured Progress, and Pearson to analyze the
memory and processor load that the test delivery engine will require; the
bandwidth necessary to transmit stimulus materials and items to students; and
the data submitted by Smarter Balanced schools and districts through the
Technology Readiness Tool. These analyses identified the minimum technology necessary
to assess the full depth and breadth of the Common Core State Standards in a
Through the optional
interim assessments, teachers will have the ability to administer a
comprehensive interim assessment that mirrors the content of the summative
assessment, or to select one or more content clusters to assess specific
elements of the grade-level Common Core State Standards for students in 9th and
10th grade. In addition, Smarter Balanced will develop an end-of-course
test-builder, using the interim item bank, for states that wish to administer
high school end-of-course assessments. The design characteristics of the
interim assessment for grades 9 and 10 are still being developed and reviewed by
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.
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.
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
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
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.
The sample items and performance tasks are compatible with desktop
and laptop computers with the following Internet browsers:
- Firefox 3.6 or newer
- Internet Explorer 8 or newer
- Chrome 18 or newer
- Safari 4.1 or newer
In addition, Android and iPad tablets with 9.5-inch screens
(10-inch class) or larger are supported with the following Internet browsers:
It is important to note
that these specifications do not reflect the minimum technology requirements
for the operational Smarter Balanced assessment system in the 2014-15 school
year. More information on the Consortium’s new hardware purchasing guidelines
is available at http://www.smarterbalanced.org/smarter-balanced-assessments/technology/.
- Chrome 18 or newer (Android)
- Safari 4.1 or newer (iPad)
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.
Smarter Balanced 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.