Information on Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) from the California Department of Education
SBA Part of Comprehensive Plan for Student Success
Knowing that public schools are preparing students for the challenges of the future, California has developed a comprehensive plan for high-quality teaching and learning in every school. We have a long way to go, but our work is well under way, with higher academic standards, more decision-making in the hands of schools and communities, and more resources dedicated to schools and to students with the greatest needs.
Gradually, we’re providing more support for teachers, more resources for students and more access to technology. As a result, exciting changes have begun to take place inside our classrooms. Along with reading to follow a story, students are learning to read to cite evidence and draw logical conclusions. They are learning to use math to solve real-world problems rather than merely pick out the right multiple-choice answer.
The system-wide changes underway are focused on helping students succeed in the long run, achieving their dreams of college and a career. They will take considerable time and effort to carry out. That’s why the course we’ve set in California is to carefully phase in change as state and local capacity grows.
Family Guides to the Smarter Balanced Assessment (English and Español)
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment by Linda Darling-Hammond (Stanford Professor)
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Background: The Smarter Balanced assessments are a key part of implementing the Common Core and preparing all students for success in college and careers. Administered online, these new assessments provide an academic check-up and are designed to give teachers and parents better information to help students succeed. Scores from the new assessments represent a realistic baseline that provides a more accurate indicator for teachers, students, and parents as they work to meet the rigorous demands of college and career readiness. As partners in our students education, the Berkeley Research Evaluation and Assessment (BREA) department will continue to gather questions, feedback and suggestions to inform the implementation of this state assessment both at the local and at the State and Federal levels. To give your input or to ask questions, go to SBA@berkeley.net recommendations will be compiled into an evaluation and delivered to the California Department of Education (CDE), Educational Testing Service (ETS and the CDE vendor) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
Q: When will the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) occur? The SBA is conducted primarily during the month of June. Your site administrator will inform you of the classroom testing window and will work with you on the specific days you are testing. (See Estimated Testing Times)
Q: What grade levels are participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessments? Students in grades 3–8 and 11 participate in Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) in English Language Arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics.
Q: What are the components of the Smarter Balanced Assessments? The Smarter Balanced Assessments comprise two components per subject area: a performance task (PT), which an individually administered, computer-generated performance task; and computer adaptive testing (CAT) items.
Q: What are performance tasks (PTs)? A PT is a portion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that requires students to answer a set of questions that are centered on a common theme or problem. The PT is in two parts for ELA and one prt for Math.
Q: How should schools sequence and schedule the components of the Smarter Balanced assessments? Smarter Balanced recommends that students take the PT and the computer adaptive testing (CAT) portions on separate days. Smarter Balanced also recommends that students begin with the CAT portion, and then the PT. Schools may opt to administer in a different order if needed.
Q: Can students from multiple grade levels be assessed during the same test session? Yes. Students from multiple grade levels can be assessed concurrently in the same room as all teachers / proctors will use a computer to monitor the progress of students who are testing.
Q: What item types will the SBA include? The SBA will engage students in both a computer-adaptive test (CAT) and performance task (PT) components. Item types in the CAT will include: multiple-choice, selected-response, matching, fill-in tables, drag and drop, graphing, short text, and long essay (1-2 paragraphs maximum). Each subject area will include a performance task (PT). English Language Arts / Literacy will have two parts, part one is considered research and gives students a chance to prepare for the second part by completing three research questions. The second part is the full write in which students produce an on-demand response using the completed research from part one. Math will have one part that has students answer questions requiring deeper understanding of real-world tasks.
Q: What will the adaptive test look like? To create an adaptive test, each test item must have an established difficulty value. The Field Test helped to collect the statistics necessary to establish these values. The 2015 adaptive engine will provide students with questions selected adaptively based on their responses. (e.g. An easier question for a student having difficulty and a more advanced question for a student answering all questions correctly.) In addition to adapting the test questions, the scoring of answers will be technology driven. A fact sheet regarding creating a Computer Adaptive Tests can be found at: Computer Adaptive Testing
Teacher, Staff and Student Training
Q: How will teachers and staff be trained to administer the SBA? BREA and Technology Teacher Leaders and District Directors have been trained through modules throughout the past three years through the Pilot, Field and Operational web-based and live trainings at the Alameda County Office of Education and at the California Department of Education. The Site Administrators attended an 120 minute training on test administration and how to support the site during the test. The Site Administrators have then scheduled a second site-level training geared specifically for teachers and support staff who will be administering the test. Teachers will receive a Test-Site Administrator’s Guide and training will include topics such as:
- Test Proctor Training and Proctor Interface
- Student Interface and Tools for Student Use
- Test Site Security
- Introduction to the Smarter Balanced Assessment
- The Computer Adaptive and Performance Tasks
- Test Administration “Sampling” – Practice and Training Test
Q: Is there time before the test starts for students to practice the online test? The Test Administrator Practice and Training Site can be accessed through the CAASPP Portal. Through this Web site, TAs can practice administering Practice and Training Tests to students. While there are no requirements to practice the online test ahead of time, if time allows, it is recommended that students become used to the interface and the chromebooks so they are familiar with the technology. Many teachers have already tried the practice and training test with their students and will see these during the training session. The login for the practice test is: www.caaspp.org and then find the “Practice & Training Tests” button and click on it.
Q: What is the difference between the “practice tests” and the “training test” and which includes the tools all students can use? To assist students to become comfortable with these tools, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) Consortium has now released “training tests” for students. These tests have 6-9 items given in Grade Spans (3-5, 6-8 and 9-11) that enable students to become familiar with the SBA interface. These will again be modeled at the teacher training with a guide on the “help keys” and universal tools. Teachers are welcome to explore these training tests before the teacher training. (See Questions 18-20 for more specifics about Universal Tools.) The “practice test” is a longer test that gives the student practice with the different kinds of questions students will be asked on the test.
Q: What are other ways that students can practice the types of questions asked? The Instructional Technology staff created this wonderful sheet of easy games (2nd grade level) that gives students a chance to practice each of the other types of questions on the test, you can find it at: bit.ly/berkeleykids The Director of Berkeley Research, Evaluation and Assessment is hosting drop-in hours from 4-5 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Supports for Students – Universal Tools, Designated Supports, and Accommodations
Q: Where can I find guidelines related to Accessibility and Accommodations? Smarter Balanced has developed a set of Usability, Accessibility and Accommodations Guidelines (PDF), which applies to all students. The Guidelines provide information for classroom teachers, English development educators, special education teachers, and related services personnel to use in selecting and administering universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations for those students who need them. The guidelines are also intended for assessment staff and administrators who oversee the decisions that are made in instruction and assessment. In addition, there is a Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) Web document. These frequently asked questions address common inquiries from schools and districts about the delivery of universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations.
Q: How will I know if my student(s) are receiving Universal Tools, Designated Supports, and Accommodations? As a parent, you will have been notified through your Individualized Education Plan (IEP), English Learner Plan (ELP), 504 document or through a Response to Intervention and Instruction (RTI2) meeting where you signed a permission slip noting the specific tools and supports for your child(ren). Site Administrators, site student support personnel (e.g. Literacy Coaches, Math Teacher Leaders, RTI2 teachers and / or English Learner teachers) and teachers will receive a list of students by grade level (and by teacher where possible). This will list the support the student is receiving. The deadline for identifying the students was Monday, April 13, 2015. Only students with exceptional circumstances will be hand-entered after this date.
Q: Who is able to set designated supports and accommodations for students in TOMS? Please have your Principal contact the District Test Site Coordinator at your site, they will then contact the District Help Desk to assure that the student is receiving the appropriate support based on the documentation provided.
Q: If a new student arrives from another district and they have already marked the students’ supports, does this have to be entered again? No; if a student’s test settings have been properly set in TOMS, they will move with the student to whichever District he or she is next enrolled.
Q: Where text-to-speech is not available, can the Test Administrator (TA) read the assessment aloud? Read-aloud is only permitted in the following limited circumstances: as a non-embedded designated support for mathematics items and English language arts/literacy (ELA) items, as a non-embedded accommodation for ELA passages in grades 6–8 and 11, and for students with visual impairments in grades 3–8 and 11 who do not yet have adequate braille skills. For more information see the Usability, Accessibility and Accommodations Guidelines (PDF).
Q: Are headphones needed for this assessment? Yes; headphones are required for all ELA listening items and performance tasks, and for all students who require text-to-speech. The Director of Technology and Site Administrator are responsible for ensuring that all students have headphones.
Q: Can the “Keyboard Commands for Students” be printed for students to use? Yes; the Keyboard Commands for Students Web document (PDF) provides keyboard commands that students can use to navigate between test elements, features, and tools. Test Administrators (TAs) can print this document out for students to use as a tool during testing.
Q: Will there be a paper-and-pencil version of the SBA? No, the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Berkeley is strictly a computer-based assessment.
Q: Will the use of scratch paper be allowed during the SBA? Yes. The use of scratch paper is permitted as a non-embedded universal tool. It is recommended that Grades 6-8 and 11 receive graph paper for the Math portion of the test.
Q: May scratch paper or graph paper be retained between sessions? Printed test items/stimuli, including embossed braille printouts, scratch paper, and graph paper must be collected and inventoried at the end of each test session and then immediately shredded. DO NOT keep printed test items/stimuli or scratch paper for future test sessions.
The only exception to this rule is when notes are used during the ELA and mathematics performance tasks. During the ELA PT, the notes on the embedded notepad (“Global Notes”) are retained from Part 1 to Part 2 so the student may go back to the notes even though the student is not able to go back to specific items in Part 1. While the embedded notepad is the preferred mode for note taking, students may use scratch paper to make notes. To ensure that students using scratch paper for notes have the same allowance as students using the online notes, TAs should ensure that students write their names (or some other personal identifier) on the scratch paper, collect students’ notes at the completion of Part 1 of the ELA PT, and then securely store the scratch paper. The scratch paper should be redistributed for students’ use during Part 2 of the ELA PT.
Q: May scratch paper or graph paper be retained between sessions? Similarly, the mathematics PT may extend beyond one testing session. In this situation, TAs should ensure that students have written their names (or some other personal identifier) on the scratch paper or graph paper, collect them at the end of the first session, and securely store them for students’ use in the subsequent testing session. The retention of scratch paper is only allowed for the PTs. Following the conclusion of the PT, all scratch paper and/or graph paper must be collected and securely destroyed to maintain test security.
Q: What are the Universal Tools any student can use?
Other tools that all students may use include:
Embedded (within the test interface) – These are included within the test on the Computer
- Breaks – The number of items per session can be designed by student need. Note: After 20 minutes, previous sessions’ answers cannot be corrected.
- Digital Clock (for both teacher and student) to track time on the test
- Digital Notepad – For a student to take notes on the computer
- English or Spanish Glossary for construct-irrelevant terms via a pop-up window
- Expandable Passages to take up a larger portion of the screen
- Keyboard Navigation – Navigation through text using a keyboard
- Mark for Review – allows a student to mark an answer and go back to it (limited by segment)
- Math Tools – such as a ruler and protractor to use for math-related items
- Spell Check – gives the student an indicator that a word is misspelled in ELA items. Math items are not scored for spelling.
- Strikethrough – allows a student to cross out wrong answers
- Writing Tools – Bold, Italic, Bullets and Undo / Redo are available for the student
- Zoom – To allow text or graphics to appear larger.
Non-Embedded (outside of the computer test administration)
- English Dictionary for ELA Performance task full-writes
- Thesaurus for ELA Performance task full-writes
Q: Will students be able to use a calculator during the SBA? The Smarter Balanced mathematics assessments for grades six and above allow students to access an embedded calculator appropriate to their grade level. Students in grade six will access a basic calculator, and students in grades seven and above will access a scientific calculator. The available Training Tests provide a mathematics band for grades six through eight. When accessing the Training Test, students should be sure to select their current grade so that they may experience the computer-based testing features and functions, including the calculator.
Technology and Supports
Q: Will we have more support on site when we are taking the tests? Yes, we will be scheduling a zone technician on-site / on-call to assist with technology issues and one teacher-leader to assist with login issues and the teacher interface.
Q: How will we assure that we have the necessary technology during our testing window? The Technology and Assessment Directors are working with the Site Principals to assure that we have scheduled the test so that chromebooks and headphones can be made available during the testing time. In addition, internet access will be prioritized to enable the necessary classrooms to be able to administer the test without freezing up. It is also essential that as much as possible, teachers seamlessly weave technology tools into ongoing lessons. As part of the 2014 Field Test, we analyzed the technology bandwith and interface and are very confident regarding the very small bandwith required by the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Q: What kind of support can teachers provide for students who are struggling with the student testing-interface? Teachers can provide assistance by guiding students to the help tools within the system. They may not provide guidance on answers. More information will be provided at the follow-up teacher training.
Q: How can I prepare my students for the tech skills to navigate the SBA (and the online world)? As we add more chromebooks and other technology, we encourage teachers to incorporate technology into their curriculum. The Technology Teacher leaders are available and willing to assist you in this process. (See Support Staff)
- Have students use Berkeley.net accounts and use Google Drive to share, edit, and present.
- Give opportunities for reading online using the new ebooks in the school libraries.
- Have a typing station or club in your classroom or site.
- Build a word wall of technology-related vocabulary.
Q: How did the move to the operational test for 2014-2015 impact our technology plan? Our technology plan is being developed and proposed through Common-Core Funding to address both professional development and hardware needs. We will continue to add additional technology to each site and provide integrated technology support and professional development. The plan will include research on how to best teach students technology skills while recognizing the developmental progressions of learning.
Q: How can I prepare my students for the SBA for English Language Arts and Mathematics? The Smarter Balanced Assessments are directly aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the Theory of Action (found at: SBA Theory of Action) embeds the formative assessment that currently occurs in your classroom as key indicators of success on the SBA. The items below are good teaching practices in general for implementation of the CCSS in English Language Arts / Literacy:
- Continue your transition to the use of Common Core Standards within your ELA instruction and Increase the number of minutes where students actively read grade level text and respond to it.
- Use CCSS aligned formative and summative assessments that include academic testing language.
- Assign on-demand writing assignments frequently.
- Practice having them do discreet writing tasks, such as “write a conclusion sentence for this paragraph.”
- Connect writing tasks directly to the texts they are reading. (citing evidence)
- Have them read multiple sources on the same topic.
- Mix up the length and timeframes you give students to write: paragraphs, sentences, essays, etc. 10 minutes, one period, extended time frames.
- Give frequent opportunities to read grade level or above texts- even if that is not their independent reading level.
- Continue the transition to the use of Common Core Standards within your mathematics instruction.
- Use CCSS formative and summative assessments that include literacy skill and strategies for reading in math, depth of knowledge within mathematics
- Use word walls that include academic vocabulary in mathematics
- Within your Math Instruction ensure that the Standards for Mathematical Practice are a part of your daily instruction in Mathematics. http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice/
Q: Are any students exempted from the SBA? Students who are taking the California Alternate Assessment (CAA) (previously the CAPA) are exempt from the SBA for all parts of the test. English Learners who are in the US less than 12 months are exempt from the ELA portion of the test.
Q: What other training resources are available? For staff interested in further training on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. There are a variety of online resources available to help teachers, parents and students prepare for the 2014–15 CAASPP assessments. They can be found at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/
Q: Are scoring guides or blueprints available for the Training, Practice Test and the Smarter Balanced Assessments? This page provides resources for each of these assessments: http://www.caaspp.org/ta-resources/index.html
The blueprints and achievement level descriptors for the Smarter Balanced Assessment are available at: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/smarter-balanced-assessments/
Q: Are there resources for parents/guardians? If so, are these resources translated into any additional languages? Yes; please refer to the California Department of Education (CDE) California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System Web page. Resources for Families are also available at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/
Q: Where can I find documentation on test security? Please refer to California’s Emergency Test Regulations about maintaining test security on the CDE CAASPP Regulations Web page.
Q: Can administrators review test questions while students are completing the CAASPP assessments? No, as the test is adaptive, each test will look different. Staff wishing to become familiar with the types of items to be administered may review the Practice Test and Training Test. Items on the CAASPP assessments are secure test materials.
Q: A student begins testing in District/School A and then moves to District/School B before completing the test. Can the test be moved to District/School B for the student to complete? Yes; if a student starts a test event in one District/school and then moves to a different District/school, the test engine system will retain that test for that student.
Q: Can more than one grade level test in the same room? Yes; students in different grade levels can test in the same room in a single test session. The Test Administrator (TA) must remember to select each grade and test within the TA Interface that he or she intends to administer during that session.
Q: Can Teachers help students use the test tools during testing? The directions for administration in the Online, Summative, Test Administration Manual specify the guidance TAs can and cannot provide to students during testing. However, students do have the ability to view tutorials that are embedded in the test delivery system at any time during testing. An example of this is asking the student to “re-read” the section.
Q: Can students return to items that were flagged for review even after the segment is complete? The students may return to items flagged as review ONLY during the testing segment or if the segment is put on pause for less than 20 minutes. Once a student completes a test segment, he or she cannot return to the items within that segment.