Smarter Balanced practice test more broadly available

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium shared the following news release March 28.

Due to the overwhelming demand for access to the Smarter Balanced Volunteer Pilot assessment from principals, teachers, parents and the public, the Executive Committee has decided to release a more complete and more broadly available “practice test” in lieu of the Volunteer Pilot assessment. As will be stressed in messaging to schools and districts, the change from a Volunteer Pilot to Practice Test does not impact current testing in support of the Scientific Pilot; all schools signed up for the Scientific Pilot are still expected to test as scheduled.

Like the planned Volunteer Pilot, the Practice Test will allow students to experience items that look and function like those found on the Scientific Pilot. The Practice Test will also include performance tasks (not previously planned for the Volunteer Pilot), and will be constructed to follow a test blueprint similar to the blueprint intended for the operational test. With the Practice Test, teachers will be able to construct simulated assessment events for their students. Additionally, online access to the Practice Test will not require a unique username and password, meaning that schools and districts can use the Practice Test for professional development activities and for discussions with parents, policymakers and other interested stakeholders.

The practice test will provide:

  • Administrators and parents access to items planned and designed for the new assessment
  • Students access to the tests over the summer, with the Practice Test being accessible right up to rollout of the operational assessment
  • A full array of item types including performance tasks
  • Versions supporting several accommodations:
    • Text-to-speech
    • Item-level pop-up Spanish glossaries for construct-irrelevant terms (Math tests only)
    • Braille
    • American Sign Language (ASL)

NOTE: Accommodated forms will be released in phases across the listed grade/content combinations:

  • Phase 1 – May 29: Accommodations available in grades 3, 7, 11 for Math and in grades 4, 7, and 11 for ELA; no ASL support for any grades
  • Phase 2 – (TBD, based on vendor production capacity): Accommodations in all grades for both content areas; no ASL support for any grades
  • Phase 3 – (TBD, based on vendor production capacity): ASL accommodation in all grades and content areas

This modification to the Smarter Balanced plans will result in a delay to the availability of a test for those schools that had volunteered earlier. That is, the Volunteer Pilot will not be accessible April 9 as originally planned; instead, the Practice Test will be available beginning Wednesday, May 29. For many schools, this later start date may be too close to (or, in some cases, after) the end of the school year to allow an early opportunity to engage with this new release. However, we hope the benefits outlined in this memo, including the fact that the Practice Test will remain open throughout the summer and across next school year, will mitigate the delay.


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