10 Years of Smarter Collaboration
Since 2010, Smarter Balanced has worked in partnership with state education agencies, districts, schools, and educators to develop a high-quality comprehensive assessment system that is designed to support instruction and boost student learning.
A Member-Led Consortium
Teacher Created, Teacher Approved
Higher Education Endorsed
The Making of an Assessment System
10 Years: A Timeline of Supporting Teaching and Learning
The Smarter Balanced assessment system consists of three major components, all designed to support teaching and learning: instructional resources, interim assessments, and summative assessments.
2012: TEACHERS PARTICIPATE IN TEST ITEMS AND TASKS PILOT
Teachers write pilot items and tasks, review for alignment with college and career readiness standards, and check for bias/sensitivity. Small-scale trials of new items and task types are used to inform revisions.
2012: DIGITAL LIBRARY CREATED AND APPROVED BY TEACHERS
1,298 educators aid in the development of a digital library of formative assessment tools and practices.
2014: 4 MILLION STUDENTS TAKE PART IN FIELD TEST
Smarter Balanced conducts a Field Test—a test of the test—of summative and interim assessment items and performance tasks. More than 4.2 million students participate, making it the largest online assessment to date.
2014-2015: INTERIM ASSESSMENTS RELEASED TO SCHOOLS
Smarter Balanced releases interim assessments that allow teachers and educators in member states to check student progress throughout the year and receive feedback they can use to tailor instruction.
2015: STATES ADMINISTER SMARTER BALANCED TESTS FOR FIRST TIME
More than 7 million students across the nation take Smarter Balanced summative assessments for the first time in spring 2015. The assessments provide data to member states to accurately describe both student achievement and student growth to inform program evaluation and school, district, and state accountability systems. The end-of-year test consists of two parts: a computer adaptive test and performance tasks.
2015: ENDORSED BY HIGHER EDUCATION
Nearly 200 institutions of higher education agree to use scores from the Smarter Balanced high school test for placement in credit-bearing courses. Students submit their scores to help determine if they are ready for college-level courses.
2016: ALIGNMENT STUDIES VALIDATE QUALITY OF SUMMATIVE TESTS
Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) conduct extensive alignment studies in grades 5 and 8 and high school, respectively, to evaluate Smarter Balanced end-of-year tests against the high-quality assessment criteria created by the Council for Chief State School Officers. The two studies affirm Smarter Balanced tests are high quality, and receiving good and excellent ratings.
2017: TEACHERS OF THE YEAR REPORT CALL TESTS MORE RIGOROUS, BETTER ALIGNED
The National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) report “Still on the Right Trajectory” finds that Smarter Balanced assessments, when compared to former state assessments, are more rigorous and better aligned with classroom instruction.
2018: SMARTER BALANCED TESTS MEET FEDERAL PEER REVIEW FOR GRADES 3-8 AND HS
Smarter Balanced members South Dakota and Nevada meet federal peer review requirements in grades 3-8 and high school. This designation means Smarter Balanced is one of two tests in the nation to meet all of the statutory and regulatory United States Department of Education peer review requirements for the general assessments in English language arts/literacy and math for high school.
2018: INTERIM COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENTS CUT SCORES UPDATED
Smarter Balanced updates cut scores, or achievement levels, for Interim Comprehensive Assessments (ICAs) for grades 9 and 10 to help educators detect even earlier in high school where students might need additional instructional support in mastering specific concepts.
2019: SMARTER BALANCED TESTS RELIABLE INDICATOR OF INITIAL COLLEGE SUCCESS
The Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) study “Predicting College Success: How Do Different High School Assessments Measure Up?” finds Smarter Balanced does as well as the SAT in predicting college outcomes, specifically first-year college GPA and second-year persistence rates for students enrolled in CSU and UC.
2019: SMARTER BALANCED RELEASES FOCUSED INTERIM ASSESSMENT BLOCKS
Focused Interim Assessment Blocks measure smaller bundles of content to give teachers a better understanding of students’ knowledge and academic performance and provide teachers with precise next steps for instruction.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment System uses advanced methodology, from testing technology to state-of-the-art accommodations, to accurately and fairly assess student knowledge and skills.
2012: SMARTER BALANCED TECHNOLOGY READINESS TOOL
Smarter Balanced releases a technology strategy framework and system requirements specifications and provides a technology readiness tool available to assist states with the transition to online assessments.
2012: INTERACTIVE SAMPLE ITEMS AND PERFORMANCE TASKS AVAILABLE
Smarter Balanced releases online, interactive samples of test questions and performance tasks. A core feature of Smarter Balanced assessments is that they are customized for each student for more accurate measurement.
2013: ONLINE PRACTICE TESTS HELP STUDENTS
Teachers, families and students are provided online practice tests that feature example test questions for grades 3-8 and HS in English language arts/literacy and math.
2015: FIRST WIDELY USED K-12 COMPUTER ADAPTIVE TEST ADMINISTERED
More than 7 million students across the nation take the first widely available computer-adaptive summative test. The K-12 computer adaptive technology (CAT) adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment based on the student’s response.
2017: FREE, ACCESSIBLE ONLINE CALCULATOR RELEASED
Smarter Balanced offers an online calculator powered by Desmos that is both free to students and includes cutting edge accessibility features that enable students who are visually impaired or blind to use online calculators.
Smarter Balanced provides teachers with instructional tools, supports, and professional development resources designed to enhance teaching and help every student make learning progress.
2014: DIGITAL LIBRARY OF INSTRUCTIONAL RESOURCES DEBUTS
The Smarter Balanced Digital Library, featuring a collection of instructional and professional learning resources by created by educators for educators is released. It’s the first of three components of the assessment system available for teachers.
2016: NEW RESOURCE LINKS INTERIM RESULTS WITH DIGITAL LIBRARY
Connections Playlists link interim assessment results to instructional resources so educators can tailor teaching and learning to students’ needs. It’s a first-of-a-kind resource to help save teachers time.
2017: SAMPLE TEST QUESTIONS HELP TEACHERS AND FAMILIES
The Sample Items Website is released and provides educators with examples of test questions used on Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts/literacy and math.
2019: SMARTER CONTENT EXPLORER HELPS TEACHER LEARN ABOUT THE TEST
Smarter Content Explorer increases transparency about the test and provides teachers with a resource to better understand how the test measures the content standards. It also provides easy access to additional technical details and documents.
2020: TOOLS FOR TEACHERS HELPS EDUCATORS IMPROVE LEARNING
Tools for Teachers, a new Website that features teacher-created and easy-to-search lessons and activities designed to save teachers time, debuts in June 2020 and celebrates its grand opening on September 30, 2020. It represents a major milestone in helping teachers help their students.
The Smarter Balanced assessment system is built around accessibility resources that ensure equitable access and meet the needs of diverse learners.
2012: ACCESSIBILITY, BIAS AND SENSITIVITY GUIDELINES RELEASED
Smarter Balanced developed item and task specifications, accessibility and accommodations guidelines, and bias and sensitivity guidelines for assessment system. Utilizing the principles of universal design, these accessibility resources include braille, Spanish translations, videos in American Sign Language, glossaries provided in 13 languages and several varieties and dialects, as well as translated test directions in 20 languages.
2013: USABILITY, ACCESSIBILITY, AND ACCOMMODATIONS GUIDELINES ADOPTED
The Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines, updated annually, are released and ensure the Smarter Balanced assessment system meets the needs of English learners and students with diverse learning needs.
2015: ISAAP PROCESS AND TOOL HELPS STUDENTS ACCESS NEEDS
The Individual Student Assessment Accessibility Profile (ISAAP) addresses student access needs for the Smarter Balanced assessments. The ISAAP process includes preparatory steps, a step for creating the ISAAP itself, and steps that allow educators to check that Designated Supports and Accommodations are entered correctly into the test engine.
2019: STARTING SMARTER HELPS FAMILES UNDERSTAND CHILD’S TEST SCORES
Smarter Balanced develops Starting Smarter for its member states to provide families with information to help them better understand student score reports. With this information about their child’s knowledge and skills, parents are starting smarter conversations with teachers about what they can do to support learning at home.
2019: ILLUSTRATION GLOSSARIES LATEST ACCESSIBLITY ADVANCEMENT
Illustration Glossaries are a designated support for math to help students understand words or phrases in test questions when they may not benefit from the text-based glossaries or American Sign Language videos.
The founding member states of Smarter Balanced established the Consortium because they are committed to equity and creating a next-generation, cost-effective, customized assessment system that maximizes the potential for student learning.
2010: Race to the Top Grant Applications Submitted
30 states submitted a Race to the Top grant application—awarded in September 2010—to create a system that would redefine assessments to feature the following characteristics: (1) conducted online and customizable for students, (2) composed of test questions that measure essential skills such as critical thinking, writing, and problem-solving, (3) provides the widest array of features ever assembled to ensure testing is fair for all students who take the test, and (4) supports teachers in professional development and provides in-class assessment tools.
2011: Annual Work Plan Approved
Member states approve annual work plan for summative assessments.
2012: Formative Assessment Annual Work Plan Approved
Governing states approve the Formative Assessment Annual Work Plan, which outlines the development of a digital library of formative assessment resources.
2012: Summative Assessment Preliminary Blueprint Approved
Member states approve preliminary blueprint for summative assessment. The Smarter Balanced summative test blueprints describe the content of the English language arts/literacy and math end-of-year tests for grades 3-8 and HS and how that content should be assessed.
2014: Achievement Level Setting Design and Summative Test Blueprints Approved
Achievement level setting, or standard setting, is the process for establishing one or more threshold scores on an assessment, making it possible to create categories of performance. This served as the initial achievement levels for the math and English language arts/literacy assessments that were administered in 17 states and one territory during the 2014-2015 school year.
2017: Strategic Plan 2017-2022 Adopted
Consortium members identified opportunities for Smarter Balanced to maintain the quality of its assessment system while also looking to innovate and evolve in response to a changing education landscape. These insights informed the development of the Strategic Plan 2017-2022.