Smarter Balance Assessments

Smarter Balanced Assessments are coming

Have you heard that state assessments are changing

Washington state has mandated that all school districts begin using Smarter Balance 
Assessments (SBA) The new assessments are aligned to the Common Core State 
Standards (CCSS) and now the Washington State Learning Standards (WSLS) 
In the spring of 2015,

SBA will replace the reading, writing and math Measurement of Student Progress

(MSP) tests for students in grades three through eight. Students in grade 10 and 11

will also take the SBA.  (English/Language Arts (ELA) at grade 10; ELA and math

at grade 11.) Grade 10 Proficiency Exams (HSPE) and End of Course (EOC)

exams will be phased out over the next few years. Tenth graders will take Common

Core aligned ELA exit exams in and math to fulfill graduation requirements.

How are the Smarter Balanced Assessments different?

·       They are aligned to the English/Language Arts and Math WSLS.                                                

·       The English/Language Arts SBA includes both reading and writing                                                 

       assessments for every grade level tested.

·       They include two different types of test: Computer Adaptive Test (CAT)                                   

        and Performance Tasks (PT) with an in-class activity.


1.      CAT is an online testing method. Questions appear

based on whether or not a student answers the previous

question correctly or incorrectly. This gives a more accurate

measure of each student’s performance level.

2.      PTs are extended activities that measure a student’s ability to

integrate knowledge and skills across multiple standards; this is a key

component of college and career readiness. Performance tasks

will be used to better measure capacities such as depth of

understanding, research skills and complex analysis.

3.     In-class activities are 20 to 30 minutes in length. The activities

involve research and structured classroom discussion to

prepare for the PT. This ensures that students have background

knowledge to successfully complete the PT.

How are the SBA given?

Smarter Balanced Assessments will be administered online.  

Students will use a school computer in a computer lab on their school time.

When will students be taking these exams?

The state of Washington has established a testing window between

March 10 and June 15. Our district’s testing schedule will be designed to

make the best use of student instructional timeand  to use resources efficiently.

We will begin SBA testing after spring break.

How are we preparing students?

The district has been actively implementing the Common Core State

Standards since the 2012-13 school year. Curriculum specialists and

teachers have been developing and using lessons and assessments

aligned to these standards.

How will the SBA scores compare to previous state assessment scores?

It is not possible to compare our scores of the new test to last year’s scores with

the MSP and the HSPE. For that reason, this will be our baseline year. We will

be able to look for growth in the following years as we continue to get student

results every year after.  Nation-wide, we are expecting to see lower scores this year

(based on the results of those districts that piloted the test last year).  There are many

reasons why we anticipate this happening. The format is different for our students;

we know that there will be a learning curve as our students learn to interact

with the interface of the testing site. The content is also new for our students and

our teachers. This will get better for our students every year now, as they will continue

to have more and more years of the Common Core Standards addressed in their

previous years’ learning. This test is a new test for the creators of the test as well.

Revisions, clarifications, and classroom tools will become available as the test makers

learn more about what students know, and how they perceive individual questions and

interact with the on-line interface.

What are the benefits of “Computer Adaptive Testing”?

This excerpt is taken from the Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium Website


"The Smarter Balanced assessment system will capitalize on the precision and efficiency 

of computer adaptive testing (CAT)..."

Based on student responses, the computer program adjusts the difficulty of questions

throughout the assessment. For example, a student who answers a question correctly

will receive a more challenging item, while an incorrect answer generates an easier question.

By adapting to the student as the assessment is taking place, these assessments present an

individually tailored set of questions to each student and can quickly identify which skills 

students have mastered. This approach represents a significant improvement over traditional 

paper-and-pencil assessments used in many states today, providing more accurate scores for 

all students across the full range of the achievement continuum. 

Better information for teachers: Optional computer adaptive interim assessments will

provide a more detailed picture of where students excel or need additional support, helping 

teachers to differentiate instruction. The interim assessments will be reported on the same 

scale as the summative assessment, and schools will have the flexibility to assess  small 

elements of content or the full breadth of the Common Core State Standards at locally-determined

times throughout the year.

More efficient and more secure: Computer adaptive tests are typically shorter than paper-

and-pencil assessments because fewer question are required to accurately determine

each student's achievement level. The assessments draw from a large band of questions, 

and since students receive different question based on their response, test items are more 

secure and can be used for a longer period of time.

More accurate: CAT offers teacher and schools a more accuate way to evaluate student

achievement, readiness for college and careers, and to measure growth over time. 

Computerized assessments allow teachers can use the information from optional interim 

assessments throughout the school year to differentiate instruction and better meet the 

unique needs of their students"

What can you do to help at home?

1. Help your students understand that the most important thing they can do is to just

do their best. A good night’s sleep, healthy meals, and a positive attitude make a big


2. There are practice tests for both English/Language Arts and Math available on the

Smarter Balanced Website.  Students and parents alike can access these training

tests in order to see how questions may be asked, and to practice using the

online tools before the testing window begins.

3.  Encourage your students to ask their teacher for help if they are struggling

in the areas of English/Language Arts and/or Math. There are some great

websites withtutorial videos for helping our students understand key concepts.