Smarter Balanced Assesments
Smarter Balanced Language Arts & Math Assessments
What is Common Core?
Real Learning for Real Life
Common Core Frequently Asked Questions
Learning Standards Frequently Asked Questions
State Testing Frequently Asked Questions
- Washington State Smarter Balanced Overview
- What do Smarter Balanced Scores mean?
- Superintendent’s message: “To best serve you, we need to know what you know!“
- Benefits of Smarter Balanced
- ReadyWa.org Smarter Balanced FAQs
- Recursos en espanol
- Your Child’s Progress: A state publication about learning standards and assessments in each grade level (available in nine languages)
Standardized testing is going to look a lot different than filling in the bubbles this spring!
Our state has adopted new Washington State Learning Standards in language arts and math, which are focused on real-world problem solving and critical thinking. They provide grade-level expectations of what students need to know, culminating in graduation when a student leaves prepared for career and college success. To assess these new rigorous learning standards, the state has replaced its language-arts and math standardized tests (formerly the MSP and HSPE) with new Smarter Balanced Assessments, which all students in grades 3-8 and 11 will take this spring.
Smarter Balanced Assessments will be different and more challenging. They are untimed and taken online on a computer. Most importantly, students can expect a more interactive experience than filling in multiple-choice answers. Students will be writing more and asked to critically defend their ideas, as opposed to recalling memorized facts; this mirrors the engaging lessons that are happening in our classrooms, too.
What does the change look like? Here are examples of the types of questions asked on the old assessments versus the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Imagine an elementary student read an excerpt of “Little Red Riding Hood”:
- Old MSP question: What happened right after Red Riding Hood arrived at Grandma’s cottage?
- New Smarter Balanced question: What does the use of dialogue in paragraph six show about the relationship between Red Riding Hood and the Wolf?
To get a better sense of what the Smarter Balanced Assessments are like, please go online and take a practice test at www.smarterbalanced.org/practice-test/.
Smarter Balanced FAQs
Q. Who is being tested and when?
- A. Students in grades 3-8 and 11 will take the Smarter Balanced Assessments in language arts and math during the testing window from March to June. Individual schools will notify parents of their exact administration dates.
Q. Because the Smarter Balanced Assessments are more rigorous, what will that mean for scores?
- A. This is a new system with a new way of scoring, so it is not possible to directly compare new scores with old ones. However, because of the increased rigor, the state expects overall achievement levels to be lower when the Smarter Balanced results come back. A dip should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning but a reflection of the transition to learning goals and assessments that prepare students at a deeper level for career and college success. Student scores have climbed steadily since the introduction of state standardized assessments in the past decade, and that will likely be a similar trajectory with the Smarter Balanced Assessments, too.
Q. Are the Smarter Balanced Assessments the only state tests students will take this spring?
- A. No. We are also required to assess students in science, which will be done using the same MSP (Measurements of Student Progress) test as in years past in grades 5 and 8; and there will be EOC (End of Course) exams in biology for high-school students. High school students will also take EOC exams in Algebra and Geometry.
Q. Why do assessments matter?
- A. Assessments are how the school district and schools determine the learning plan for all students and your specific student, including intervention and highly capable services. Smarter Balanced Assessments will also be reflection of how well your student is prepared for life after graduation in a career or college. These tests help us know how to best serve your child.
Q. What can I do to help my child on standardized assessments?
- A. Discuss the new tests with your child, and make sure s/he is not afraid or anxious but is prepared to do his/her best. Have your child get a good night’s sleep before the test and a nutritious, filling breakfast the day of. Because the real learning happens as an ongoing process throughout the school year while your child becomes an analytical thinker, please stress the importance of school work every day and provide a comfortable, quiet place for your child to study (whether at home or somewhere like a library). If your child struggles with homework and you cannot help, contact your child’s teacher right away.
Q. Who can I talk to about the upcoming standardized testing?
- A. Your classroom teacher, building principal, and Superintendent Nancy Coogan (206-901-8006) are all great resources.
Five tips to help your child prepare for the Smarter Balanced test
- Practice the test. Take the practice test with your child in order to understand the type of questions on the test. Work through problems together and explain your thinking process. Find out whether your child will be using any special equipment—like headphones—for taking the test, and practice using them beforehand.
- Observe and assist. Sit down with your child at least once a week for 15-30 minutes while he or she works on homework. This will keep you informed about what your child is working on, and it will help you be the first to know if your child needs help with specific topics.
- Talk to your child’s teacher(s). Ask them to explain grade-level expectations. During your parent/teacher conference, focus on the areas where your child needs extra help. Ask for ways to work these subjects into teachable moments at home.
- Provide a good foundation for learning. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep at night, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough exercise. A healthy, well-rested child will get more out of school time.
- Relax! The Smarter Balanced test is simply a way for teachers and school administrators to see where they need to focus their efforts, and it is only one snapshot in time of your student’s abilities in certain subjects.