Evaluation and Assessment

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) is a state-led consortium working to develop next-generation assessments that accurately measure student progress toward college- and career-readiness. Smarter Balanced is one of two multistate consortia awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop an assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by the 2014-15 school year.

The work of Smarter Balanced is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help students succeed – regardless of disability, language or subgroup. Smarter Balanced involves experienced educators, researchers, state and local policymakers and community groups working together in a transparent and consensus-driven process.

Smarter Balanced Assesments

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is developing a system of valid, reliable, and fair next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts/literacy (ELA/literacy) and mathematics for grades 3-8 and 11. The system—which includes bothsummative assessments for accountability purposes and optional interim assessments for instructional use—willuse computer adaptive testingtechnologies to the greatest extent possible to provide meaningful feedback and actionable data that teachers and other educators can useto help students succeed.

Smarter Balanced assessments will go beyond multiple-choice questions to include extended response and technology enhanced items, as well as performance tasks that allow students to demonstrate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Performance tasks challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to respond to complexreal-world problems. They can best be described as collections of questions and activities that are coherently connected to a single theme or scenario. 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 traditional assessment questions. The performance tasks will be taken on a computer (but will not be computer adaptive) and will take one to two class periods to complete.

Smarter Balanced capitalizes on the precision and efficiency of computer adaptive testing (CAT). 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.

Assessment System Components

  • A summative assessment administered during the last 12 weeks of the school year. The summative assessment will consist of two parts: a computer adaptive test and performance tasks that will be taken on a computer, but will not be computer adaptive. The summative assessmentwill:
    • Accurately describe both student achievement and growth of student learning as part of program evaluation and school, district, and state accountability systems;
    • Provide valid, reliable, and fair measures of students’ progress toward, and attainment of the knowledge and skills required to be college- and career-ready; and
    • Capitalize on the strengths of computer adaptive testing—efficient and precise measurement across the full range of achievement and quick turnaround of results.
    • More information about the development of summative assessment is available in the Summative Assessment Work Plan.
  • Optional interim assessmentsadministered at locally determined intervals. These assessments will provide educators with actionable information about student progress throughout the year. Like the summative assessment, the interim assessments will be computer adaptive and includes performance tasks. The interim assessments will:
    • Help teachers, students, and parents understand whether students are on track, and identify strengths and limitations in relation to the Common Core State Standards;
    • Be fully accessible for instruction and professional development (non-secure); and
    • Support the development of state end-of-course tests.
  • Formative assessment practices and strategies are the basis for a digital library of professional development materials, resources, and tools aligned to the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced claims and assessment targets. Research-based instructional tools will be available on-demand to help teachers address learning challenges and differentiate instruction. The digital library will include professional development materials related to all components of the assessment system, such as scoring rubrics for performance tasks.
  • A secure, online reporting system that provides assessment results to students, parents, teachers, and administrators. The reports will show student achievement and progress toward mastery of the Common Core State Standards. Learn moreabout the development of the Smarter Balanced reporting system.

Preliminary Test Blueprints

The Smarter Balanced preliminary test blueprints describe the content of the English language arts/literacy and mathematics summative assessments for grades 3–8 and high school—and how that content will be assessed. Developed with broad input from member states, partners, and stakeholders, the preliminary test blueprints reflect the depth and breadth of the performance expectations of the Common Core State Standards. Smarter Balanced Governing States adopted the preliminary summative test blueprints in November 2012.

The test blueprints include critical information about the number of items, score points, and depth of knowledge for items associated with each assessment target. They will guide the development of items and performance tasks, the Pilot and Field Tests, score reporting, standard setting, and ongoing research. These blueprints are “preliminary” because they establish assessment design features that may be subject to refinement and revision after the analysis of the Pilot and Field Tests.


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Smarter Balanced Assesment Consortium (SBAC) Publications and Resources

Practice tests

Sample Items and Performance tasks FAQs

Factsheet for Teachers

Smarter Balanced Factsheet