4.27.15: New Smarter Balanced Assessment is under way statewide
4.27.15: New Smarter Balanced Assessment is under way statewide
Posted on 04/27/2015

Spring has arrived, and so has the decades-old practice in Washington and across the country of testing students in core academic subjects.

 

Adults may recall, for example, using a No. 2 pencil in elementary school to fill in bubbles on standardized tests such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).

 

The test began in Iowa in 1935 as a tool to improve instruction and eventually expanded to other states nationwide.

 

The annual testing is also not new to the more recent generation of students in this state who took the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) from 1997 to 2009 and the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) from 2010 to 2014.

 

As learning standards change over time redefining what students are expected to know at each grade level, so do the tests that are used as a tool to measure student proficiency based on those standards.

 

Smarter Balanced Assessment

 

The newest test under way this spring in Washington and 23 other states is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

 

The standardized test, given in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 11, measures how well students are meeting the state’s learning standards in math and English language arts. Tenth graders will also take the English language arts section of the test this year.

 

Fifth and eighth graders are continuing this year to take the MSP science test.

 

Smarter Balanced Assessment testing began in Puyallup schools last month and continues through early June. MSP testing starts April 20.

 

The Puyallup School District is well-prepared for this year’s new online test, having participated both with the state’s piloting of the assessment two years ago and its field testing last year, said Glenn Malone, executive director of assessment, accountability, and student success.

 

The Smarter Balanced Assessment aligns with Washington’s rigorous K-12 learning standards, also known as Common Core State Standards, which have been transitioning into Puyallup and other schools statewide since 2011.

 

These Common Core State Standards, also adopted by many other states, are a set of expectations outlining what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts.

 

The standards were created by K-12 and higher education experts across the country to ensure that all students, regardless of location or background, acquire a strong, shared foundation in math and English.

 

The new standards also reflect what students will need to know to be ready for success after high school.

 

Educators have defined being college- and career-ready, for example, as having the skills needed as a high school graduate to qualify for and succeed in college credit-bearing courses, or in post-secondary job training necessary for chosen careers, without having to take remedial coursework.

 

The Smarter Balanced Assessment has been specifically developed to measure real-world skills such as critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving.

 

All students take the new test on the computer, and some of the assessment is computer adaptive, adjusting to a student’s ability level (the difficulty of questions increases or decreases depending on how a student answers previous questions).

 

Other technology innovations with this new test include questions that require students to use a computer mouse or trackpad to select and highlight text, drag-and-drop text or graphic elements, and manipulate points on a graph.

 

The test is also designed, and supports are in place, to provide accurate measures of achievement and growth for all students, including English Language Learners (ELL) and those with special needs.

 

Understanding the score reports

 

Every family of a student who takes the new Smarter Balanced Assessment will receive a score report this summer. Science MSP scores for fifth and eighth graders will be reported separately.

 

When parents receive their child’s Smarter Balanced Assessment report, they will see one score listed for math and another listed for English language arts.

 

The Smarter Balanced Assessment scores will range from 2,000 to 3,000. Based on the total score, students will fall into one of four different achievement levels.

 

Level 1: The student has not met the achievement standard and needs substantial improvement to demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed for likely success in future coursework or entry-level credit-bearing college coursework after high school.

 

Level 2: The student has nearly met the achievement standard and may require further development to demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed for likely success in future coursework or entry-level credit-bearing college coursework after high school.

 

Level 3: The student has met the achievement standard and demonstrates progress toward mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for likely success in future coursework or entry-level credit-bearing college coursework after high school.

 

Level 4: The student has exceeded the achievement standard and demonstrates advanced progress toward mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for likely success in future coursework or entry-level credit-bearing college coursework after high school.

 

Because the new learning standards are more challenging than the ones they replaced, some students who were considered proficient on standardized tests using the old learning standards on the MSP and HSPE will have more difficulty reaching proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Malone said.

 

As students have more years of instruction aligned to the new learning standards, results are expected to improve, Malone said.

“The same thing happened when the WASL and MSP tests were introduced,” Malone said. “The scores started out low and improved over time. I predict the same kind of growth with the Smarter Balanced Assessment.”

 

A key benefit of the new test, Malone said, is the ability for educators to be able to track the progress of individual students and subgroups of students as they advance from one grade level to the next.

 

Smarter Balanced Assessment scores, combined with other assessment tools used to track student progress in Puyallup, will be used to help prepare and plan instruction so that students are successful throughout their education, Malone said.

 

For more information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment or Common Core State Standards, visit the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction website at www.k12.wa.us.