SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) FAQ

Additional FAQs available on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Webpage.

Q. What is the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)?
A.
 
The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium is a group of states funded by the Department of Education to build an online, balanced assessment system based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The goal of SBAC is to develop assessments (summative, benchmark, and formative) that provide meaningful data that educators can use to make sure students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. SBAC is committed to ensuring that assessment and instruction embody the CCSS and that all students, regardless of disability, language, or subgroup status, have the opportunity to learn this valuable content, and a variety of ways to show what they know and can do.

For a one-page summary of SBAC: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Smarter-Balanced-Core-Components.pdf.
 
Q. What is the timeline for the new assessments?
A.
 
Wisconsin has begun a four year transition from its current paper/pencil based WKCE to the SMARTER Balanced Assessment System. The WKCE will continue to be administered during the development of the new assessment system. The timeline for the development of the new assessment system is as follows:

School Year Steps in Development
2010-11 Develop master workplan; establish consortium workgroups and scope of workgroups; finalize consortium organizational and governance structure; begin development of item specifications and formative process/tools/practices; begin to identify vendors via RFP process.
2011-12 Build the technology platform; further item development; begin item review; design professional development components
2012-13 Begin limited field testing; pilot testing of components
2013-14 Large-scale field testing; preliminary achievement standards proposed; common reporting developed
2014-15 Fully operational summative assessment administered in all SMARTER states; final achievement standards verified and adopted across states.

 
Q. Why did Wisconsin join SBAC?
A.
 
Wisconsin enthusiastically joined SBAC as a governing state because SBAC’s priorities and system design mirror the recommendations received from Wisconsin’s Next Generation Assessment Task Force. The task force was convened to examine balanced assessment systems and to make recommendations on the components of an assessment system essential to increasing student achievement in Wisconsin. SBAC will develop a comprehensive set of resources for use throughout the school year, including a computer adaptive summative test. The online nature of the SBAC system will enable rapid reporting. SBAC also has a primary focus on involving educators in all phases of system development, notably around the formative and benchmark components, which deepens professional development and creates a unified system of assessment and instruction. For further information on the task force recommendations, see http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/files/oea/pdf/NGTFbr.pdf. For further information on SBAC design features, see http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/SBACSummary2010.pdf.
 
Q. How involved is Wisconsin in the SBAC Consortium and the creation of the new assessment system?
A.
 
Wisconsin is very involved in the consortium and has played a major role in SBAC from the beginning—including major involvement in writing the application and defining the system’s goals—to current activity as a Governing State—including participating in many of the ten workgroups, co-chairing two of these workgroups, and serving as one of seven elected members of the Executive Committee. Our broad participation will ensure the recommendations of the Next Generation Assessment Task Force are met.
 
Q. How will educators be involved in the development of the new assessments?
A.
 
During the development of the SMARTER balanced assessment (SBAC) system, the consortium will need educators to assist in the writing of items, creation of scoring rubrics, and development of formative assessment resources to be used across member states. This means DPI will need the involvement of teachers from across Wisconsin and will need those teachers to be well-versed in the Common Core State Standards.
 
Q. When will Wisconsin educators get involved in this process?
A.
 
The consortium is planning on conducting item development in 2012 and we foresee educator involvement during this time period. DPI will notify districts of the process and specifics when we have more information. Meanwhile, SBAC is building a comprehensive online resource of formative assessment tools and strategies. We are looking for high quality resources, grounded in the Common Core State Standards, for possible inclusion in this digital library. If you have materials to recommend, please contact us at oeamail@dpi.wi.gov and include "SMARTER digital library" in the subject line.
 
Q. How will the new assessment be different from the WKCE?
A.
 
The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium is building an assessment system, which means a set of resources that include multiple assessments or ways to gather information about student learning. While the summative assessment’s testing window will be at the end of the school year – and we anticipate that students will have two opportunities to take this test – there will also be benchmark assessments that may be used at key points throughout the year as well as formative strategies for day-to-day teaching and learning. The summative assessment will be an online, adaptive test comprised of multiple choice questions, computer-enhanced items, and performance tasks. The benchmark/interim assessments will also be online and adaptive. Formative strategies are resources for educators to use within a unit or lesson to gauge student learning in real time.
 
Q. Why are we switching to an adaptive test?
A.
 
There are several benefits to adaptive testing. An adaptive assessment is able to provide information about the full range of learning. A paper and pencil test is confined to the content within the printed document. Student results are likewise confined to the grade level tested. In contrast, an adaptive assessment is able to provide information that goes into more depth within the grade level as well as information outside of the grade level. In other words, an adaptive assessment can provide evidence that a third grade student is able to read at a fifth grade level. This type of information is important for classroom educators to plan teaching and learning opportunities. Because the adaptive assessment provides information both deeper within the grade level and outside of grade level, the precision of the scores provided is more accurate.
 
Q. How can I prepare my students for the new assessment?
A.
 
The best way to prepare students for the new assessment is to provide them with a robust curriculum of instructional units specifically articulated to the Common Core State Standards. Educators should discuss curricula with staff in grade levels above and below them to ensure students are receiving a fluent learning transition from grade to grade. Even though most students are familiar with online testing of some sort, practice tests will be provided to make sure students are familiar with the computer and test format.

For more information about Wisconsin’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards: http://standards.dpi.wi.gov.
 
Q. How will results be reported?
A.
 
Details about how results will be reported are yet to be determined, but we can say some things for certain: growth and attainment will both be reported for the summative assessment. The benchmark assessment will likely report both attainment and growth information as well. Formative assessments are classroom strategies and will not provide formal results, but rather information for educators to inform decisions during instruction.
 
Q. What if district computer capacity is not sufficient for computer-based assessment?
A.
 
A technology readiness tool will be available in Spring 2012 to help SBAC states and districts gauge their readiness for online testing. By 2014 all districts should be able to support the computer-based assessment. The state is looking into what specifications need to be in all schools and the support that will be needed. More information will be released about district readiness as it becomes available.
 
Q. What time of year will the new assessments be administered?
A.
 
The summative assessment will be given at the end of the school year. While the details of the exact length of the testing window are yet to be determined, we anticipate that each student will have up to two opportunities to test in order to demonstrate proficiency. This allows schools to plan testing around a schedule that works for them given available computer resources. The adaptive nature of the online assessment components (not including performance tasks) allow for flexibility in the testing window; requirements that students take the test in the same week or day will not apply as they did before. Interim (benchmark) assessments will be available online throughout the school year. Formative tools and resources for informal classroom assessment will be available for educators–from an online digital library—to use as needed to inform classroom-level planning and improve individual student outcomes.
 
Q. What will the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) System components be?
A.
 
The components of the SBAC system will be a computer adaptive summative assessment, a computer adaptive benchmark (interim) assessment, and a digital library where formative tools and processes as well as professional development resources will be housed for educator use at any time.
 
Q. What is a balanced assessment system?
A.
 
Wisconsin’s focus is on creating a balanced assessment system, a group of interrelated components designed to support the teaching/learning cycle. One test cannot do everything. One test cannot answer all questions. This system of assessment tools will meet multiple needs of students and educators. For instance, summative tests are not created to diagnose an individual student’s needs with respect to their classroom instruction. On the other hand, formative assessments and many benchmark/interim assessments are designed around the “what’s next” question. The assessment system must also be part of a 21st century system of learning by working together with standards, curriculum, instruction, and support structures to ensure students are college and career ready. See the Wisconsin Balanced Assessment System Chart.
 
Q. What is a formative assessment?
A.
 
Formative assessment is a process used during instruction to gather feedback on student learning that is used to adjust on-going teaching, and to improve students’ achievement. Formative assessments occur during instruction and, as a result, are often dynamic, in-the-moment, small-scale evaluations.

For more information about the components of a balanced assessment system: http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/files/oea/pdf/balsystem.pdf.
 
Q. What is a benchmark assessment?
A.
 
Benchmark assessments (also known as interim assessments) include medium-scale diagnostic and/or progress monitoring assessments that evaluate students’ knowledge and skills relative to a specific set of academic goals within a limited time frame. These types of assessments are designed to provide multiple data points across time and can inform decisions at both the classroom and the school or district level. Benchmark assessments generally occur between units of instruction.

For more information about the components of a balanced assessment system: http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/files/oea/pdf/balsystem.pdf.
 
Q. What is a summative assessment?
A.
 
A summative assessment is designed to evaluate cumulative learning, through a process of evaluating the learning of students at a given (end) point in time. Summative assessments occur after instruction to help evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and levels of student learning.

For more information about the components of a balanced assessment system: http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/files/oea/pdf/balsystem.pdf.
 
Q. What types of items/questions will be on the SBAC summative assessment?
A.
 
The SMARTER summative assessment will include a balance of item types: selected response, constructed response, technology enhanced, and performance task items.
 
Q. How will the high school assessment be designed?
A.
 
Higher education representatives are working with the Consortium to develop clear definitions of what it means to be college-ready. Institutions of higher education across Consortium states have agreed to work with SBAC to ensure the high school assessments will, at a minimum, serve as college course placement exams. While it is too soon to know if the exams will also be accepted for college entrance, the intent will be to work with higher education to create exams that indicate student readiness for credit-bearing coursework. As SBAC work progresses, there will be opportunities to verify that the high school assessments align with Wisconsin’s assessment goals and needs.
 
Q. If the future SMARTER assessments are based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but the current WKCE is aligned to the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards, how should we handle the transition period?
A.
 
DPI urges districts to begin their transition to the Common Core State Standards now because any systematic and sustained effort to understand CCSS; align local curriculum and instruction; and engage educators in deep analysis will return positive results on the WKCE, WAA-SwD, as well as the future SMARTER Balanced Assessment System.

Wisconsin quickly adopted the CCSS, in part, because the CCSS represent an enhancement to our academic standards, not a dramatic departure. However, the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics demand more rigor. As such, DPI encourages districts and schools to begin the process of understanding the CCSS, and identifying ways to align to these rigorous, robust standards.

Many schools, districts, and CESAs have begun planning their transition work. For more information about standards implementation in Wisconsin: http://standards.dpi.wi.gov.
 
Q. How can I get continued information and updates regarding SBAC?
A.
 
Exclusive SBAC quarterly updates will be available on the DPI SBAC web page (http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/oea_smarter). An update on SBAC will also be provided in each DAC newsletter. The DAC newsletter is a communication tool designed by the Office of Educational Accountability (OEA) specifically for District Assessment Coordinators (DACs), but available to all who are interested. Newsletters are produced quarterly during the school year—early fall, late fall, mid-winter, and late spring—and posted online (http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/oea_dacnwltrs). If you prefer to receive more frequent SBAC updates, bookmark the SBAC website (http://www.smarterbalanced.org/), which is updated regularly. To receive press releases and other announcements from SBAC, please email info@smarterbalanced.org.
 
Q. Will the test developed by SMARTER be appropriate for students with significant cognitive disabilities (also known as the 1% population) currently taking the WAA-SwD?
A.
 
No. Wisconsin is participating in a separate consortium, called the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) Consortium, of 13 states to create a new alternate assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Funded by a four-year IDEA grant, the DLM consortium is tasked with creating an online adaptive system similar to SBAC but that will be based upon the newly developed Common Core Essential Elements. This system will help guide the instruction and assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities. More information about DLM is available here: http://dynamiclearningmaps.org/.
 

 

 

Additional SBAC FAQs from the SMARTER webpage
 

 

 

 

 

 

For questions about this information, contact osamail@dpi.wi.gov