California Department of Education Recommends Smarter Balanced Assessments

Report calls for implementation of assessment system focused on improving teaching and learning

OLYMPIA, Wash. – February 5, 2013 – In a report to the governor and legislature, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson outlined a plan to replace the state’s current Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program with the Smarter Balanced assessment system in the 2014-15 school year. Citing the need to shift from paper-and-pencil, multiple-choice tests to online assessments that measure college- and career-ready standards, Torlakson said that the Smarter Balanced assessments would provide a model for high-quality teaching and learning.
Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System urges the state to invest in assessments that require students to think critically, solve problems, and show greater depth of knowledge—critical skills under the Common Core State Standards. The report notes that Smarter Balanced assessment items and performance tasks will help embed these deeper learning skills in the classroom:
“To promote high-quality teaching and learning, assessment items need to elicit behaviors that students exhibit when they engage in high-quality instruction. Innovative assessment approaches such as collaborative student-relevant performance tasks, constructed-response items, and technology-enhanced items must be a primary component of our new assessment system. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) will provide these features for English–language arts (ELA) and mathematics.” (pp. 37-38)
“We are thrilled that California is taking another step toward implementation of the Smarter Balanced assessment system,” said Joe Willhoft, Ph.D., executive director of Smarter Balanced. “Next-generation assessments are an integral part of implementing the Common Core and helping prepare all students for college and careers.”
The report also recommends that California take full advantage of the Smarter Balanced interim assessments by making them available to all school districts. The optional interim assessments provide teachers tools to track student progress at locally-determined times throughout the year. The interim assessments will be reported on the same scale as the summative, year-end assessment, and teachers will have the flexibility to assess clusters of standards or the full breadth of the Common Core. The Consortium’s balanced system of assessments also includes a digital library of formative assessment strategies and practices for teachers to improve day-to-day assessment activities and enhance classroom instruction.
As a Governing State since June 2011, California plays a leading role in the development of the Smarter Balanced assessment system. State representatives serve on five Smarter Balanced work groups, and California Deputy Superintendent for Public Instruction Deborah Sigman sits on the Consortium’s Executive Committee.


About Smarter Balanced
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium brings together states to create a common, innovative assessment system for mathematics and English language arts/literacy that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and helps prepare students for college and careers. The Consortium involves educators, researchers, policymakers, and community groups in a transparent and consensus-driven process to help all students thrive in a knowledge-driven global economy. The Consortium’s projects are funded through a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, comprising 99 percent of activity resources, with the remaining support provided through generous contributions of charitable foundations. Membership is open to any interested U.S. state. For more information, please visit

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