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 complex real-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 assessment will:
- 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 assessments administered 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.
- More information about the development of formative assessment tools and resources is available in the Formative Assessment Work Plan.
- 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 more about 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.
- Smarter Balanced Preliminary Summative Assessment Blueprints (PDF)
- Supporting Document: Scoring Reporting and Estimated Testing Times (PDF)
Smarter Balanced is developing content specifications in English language arts/literacy and mathematics to ensure that the assessments cover the range of knowledge and skills in the Common Core State Standards. Once finalized, the content specifications will serve as the basis for the Smarter Balanced system of summative and interim assessments and formative assessment support for teachers.
Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Smarter Balanced Senior Research Advisor and professor of education at the Stanford University School of Education, led the development of the content specifications in collaboration with experts in the field. The Smarter Balanced Technical Advisory Committee, Consortium work groups, and the lead authors of the Common Core State Standards also contributed to the documents. Hundreds of organizations and individual stakeholders provided feedback during two rounds of public comment.
- English Language Arts/Literacy Content Specifications (1/6/12 draft)
- ELA/Literacy Appendices D-F (9/19/11 draft)
- ELA/Literacy Webinar (YouTube) (SchoolTube)
- Mathematics Content Specifications (3/20/12 draft)
- Mathematics Webinar (YouTube) (SchoolTube)
Item and performance task specifications provide guidance on how to translate the Smarter Balanced Content Specifications into actual assessment items. In addition, guidelines for bias and sensitivity, accessibility and accommodations, and style help item developers and reviewers ensure consistency and fairness across the item bank. The specifications and guidelines were reviewed by member states, school districts, higher education, and other stakeholders.
English Language Arts/Literacy
- ELA General Item and Task Specifications (PDF)
- ELA Rubrics (PDF)
- ELA Stimulus Specifications (PDF)
- ELA Stimuli (ZIP)
- Issues Related to Stimulus and Item Development (PDF)
- Mathematics General Item and Task Specifications Grades 3-5 (PDF)
- Mathematics Grades 3-5 (ZIP)
- Mathematics General Item and Task Specifications Grades 6-8 (PDF)
- Mathematics Grades 6-8 (ZIP)
- Mathematics General Item and Task Specifications High School (PDF)
- Mathematics High School (ZIP)