Smarter Balanced Awards Pilot Item and Performance Task Development Contract to CTB/McGraw Hill

OLYMPIA, Wash. April 16, 2012 – The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) today announced that CTB/McGraw Hill (CTB) will lead a team of assessment experts—in collaboration with member states—to develop the first set of next-generation assessment items and performance tasks.


The contract is the largest issued to date by Smarter Balanced and will produce 10,000 items and performance tasks to be used in the pilot test of the assessment system in early 2013. A total of 47,000 items and performance tasks will be needed for the implementation of the assessment system in the 2014-15 school year. A separate contract solicitation will be issued for item and performance task development for the field test of the assessment system in spring 2014.


“Item writing marks a critical milestone in the development of next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards,” said Joe Willhoft, Ph.D., executive director of Smarter Balanced. “Over the next year, Smarter Balanced will work with educators to create assessment items and performance tasks that measure the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that students need to be successful in college and careers.”


Smarter Balanced is developing a balanced system of assessments—with formative, interim and summative assessments—that measure achievement and growth toward college and career readiness. 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.


The Smarter Balanced assessments go beyond traditional multiple-choice formats. Through this contract, CTB and its partners will research innovative item and task formats to ensure that the assessments provide authentic information that can help improve teaching and student learning. CTB will also hire and train educators from Smarter Balanced states to write and conduct quality reviews of these next-generation assessment items and performance tasks.


The team of experts led by CTB includes:

  • American Institutes for Research, which will be involved in the development of technology-enabled test items and new open-source scoring engines as well as research into new item types through cognitive laboratory studies and small scale trials.
  • Data Recognition Corporation, which will also assist in item development and scoring.
  • The Council for Aid to Education, which will support development of performance tasks.
  • HumRRO, which will focus on evaluation of item procurement options.
  • The College Board, which will provide validity work focused on college and career readiness.


This new item writing contract builds on the efforts of Smarter Balanced work groups and partners over the past 18 months. The Consortium has developed content specifications in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, which ensure that the assessments cover the range of knowledge and skills in the Common Core State Standards. In addition, item and task specifications provide guidance on how to translate the content specifications into actual assessment items. These materials are available at


To date, Smarter Balanced has issued 12 requests for proposals and awarded nine contracts (out of an expected 17) toward the development of the summative assessment. More information on the Consortium’s procurement is available at:




About Smarter Balanced
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium brings together states to create a common, innovative assessment system for mathematics and English language arts 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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