Smarter Assessments

The Smarter Balanced assessment system is a valid, fair, and reliable approach to student assessment that provides educators, students and parents meaningful results with actionable data to help students succeed.

Our assessment system, aligned to Common Core State Standards, consists of three major components, all designed to improve teaching and learning.

A Balanced Assessment System

The Formative Assessment Process and the Digital Library

Formative assessment is a deliberate process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides actionable feedback that is used to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve students’ attainment of curricular learning targets/goals. There are four attributes in the Formative Assessment Process:

  • Clarify intended learning
  • Elicit evidence
  • Interpret evidence
  • Act on evidence

The Digital Library is an online collection of high-quality instructional and professional learning resources contributed by educators for educators. These resources are aligned with the intent of the Common Core State Standards and help educators implement the formative assessment process to improve teaching and learning. Educators can use the materials to:

  • Engage in Professional Learning Communities
  • Differentiate instruction for diverse learners
  • Engage students in their own learning
  • Improve assessment literacy
  • Design professional development opportunities

The Digital Library also incorporates collaboration features to provide educators opportunities to comment on and rate resources and share their expertise with colleagues across the country in online discussion forums.


Interim Assessment:
The Optional Periodic Test

Optional interim assessments allow teachers to check student progress throughout the year, giving them information they can use to improve their instruction and help students meet the challenge of college- and career-ready standards. These tools are used at the discretion of schools and districts, and teachers can employ them to check students’ progress at mastering specific concepts at strategic points during the school year. The interim assessments consist of the following features:
  • Interim Comprehensive Assessments (ICAs) that test the same content and report scores on the same scale as the summative assessments.
  • Interim Assessment Blocks (IABs) that focus on smaller sets of related concepts and provide more detailed information for instructional purposes.
  • High-quality test items that are developed in the same way as those used for the summative assessments.
  • Questions that can be machine scored by the Smarter Balanced Test Delivery Engine (some questions such as constructed-response items and performance tasks need to be scored by teachers locally).

Summative Assessment:
The End-of-Year Test

Summative assessments determine students’ progress toward college and career readiness in English language arts/literacy and math. These are given at the end of the school year and consist of two parts: a computer adaptive test and a performance task. The summative assessments:

  • Accurately describe both student achievement (how much students know at the end of the year) and student growth (how much students have improved since the previous year) to inform program evaluation and school, district, and state accountability systems
  • Include writing at every grade and ask students to solve multi-step, real-world problems in mathematics; and
  • Capitalize on the strengths of computer adaptive testing: efficient and precise measurement with a quick turnaround of results.

More than 220 colleges and universities have agreed to use results of the high school summative assessments as evidence of student readiness for entry-level, credit-bearing courses.

Learn more about the development and design of the summative assessment, including content specifications, item/task specifications, and test blueprints.

We believe California’s implementation of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments has the potential to dramatically improve college readiness and help close the preparation gap that exists for California students.Higher Education Leaders in California

Common Core Aligned

The Smarter Balanced assessment system covers the full range of college- and career-ready knowledge and skills in the Common Core State Standards. To do this, each test item is based on overall content claims and assessment targets.

Content claims are summary statements about the knowledge and skills students are expected to demonstrate on the assessment related to a particular aspect of the standards. Within each claim area, assessment targets were developed to ensure that item writers and reviewers address the standards, learning progressions, and the Depth of Knowledge levels. The Practice Tests reflect the expectations for rigorous content and application of knowledge contained in the Common Core.

As we developed the components of the Smarter Balanced system, our members approved content claims in English language arts/literacy and mathematics: