Updated: Schools, districts invited to participate in Smarter Balanced field test

Updated Oct. 8: The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has noticed a weak trend in high school registration for the field test. To have a sound assessment, it is imperative that Smarter Balanced obtain a sufficient number of students in all tested grade levels. Please register your school by the Oct. 15 deadline.

Maine schools will have the opportunity to participate in the spring 2014 field test of the Smarter Balanced assessment in preparation for the full spring 2015 administration of the test. This is an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience with the new test design and for teachers and administrators to gain exposure to the logistics and prepare for a smooth transition to the new assessment.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is developing this robust, groundbreaking assessment system to provide high-quality information on learning—and ultimately help prepare all students to graduate high school ready for college and/or careers.

This multifaceted system includes computer-adaptive summative and interim assessments that provide accurate and effective measures of student achievement and growth, along with cutting-edge formative tools to help teachers better understand and support their students. A variety of assessment item types—including selected-response, constructed-response and technology-enhanced items and performance tasks—ensure that students are rigorously and accurately assessed across the full range of the Maine Learning Results.

Valuable advance exposure to assessment system

From mid-March to early June of 2014, Smarter Balanced will conduct the field test of its innovative next-generation assessments. Schools across Smarter Balanced states, including Maine, will have the opportunity to participate in and experience an assessment that is closely aligned with the content, configuration and length of the planned 2015 operational assessments. The field test will include students in grades 3 through 11, engaging in online assessments in mathematics and ELA/literacy.

Approximately 10 percent of the state’s students are needed to adequately represent Maine in the field test for each content area. Field test participation will be in addition to annual state accountability testing. To minimize the burden on any one school, schools can choose the level of participation that best suits their busy timelines and competing priorities. The minimum level of commitment for the field test is one entire grade level within a school, participating in either the English language arts (ELA)/literacy assessment or the mathematics assessment.

Registered schools will be invited to participate via a subsequent communication, with selection based on a need to ensure that final participants represent the diverse characteristics of our student population. If there are gaps in representation, some schools that did not offer to participate will be approached to participate.

Field testing is critical to ensure that assessment items are accessible to all students and that they produce results that are valid, reliable and fair. The field test helps guarantee that the Smarter Balanced assessment items are placed on an accurate scale to determine final achievement level descriptors (i.e., cut scores).

As importantly, early engagement with the assessments provides a valuable window to the future for test takers and school staff alike, allowing students and teachers to feel mofre comfortable and confident when students test online.

Administrators are invited to submit interest in participating in the 2014 Smarter Balanced field test. Please submit your interest by Oct. 15.

Accessibility and accommodations

A major advantage of these next-generation assessments is their improved accessibility features, which ensure that the assessments meet the needs of all students. The Smarter Balanced Assessment System offers a variety of accessibility tools and accommodations for students with disabilities and English learners, including dynamic features such as videos of human signers using American Sign Language and customized pop-up glossaries.

Test administration time

For scheduling purposes, participating schools should plan for approximately 3.5 hours of testing per grade and content area. Testing is intended to be administered over multiple sessions of about 45 minutes each, but may be administered in shorter or longer sessions as appropriate for the students and the school. The field test will approximate the length of the 2015 operational assessments.

Technology and security requirements

To promote ease of implementation, the online Smarter Balanced Assessment System was designed to operate within the technology infrastructures that currently exist in most schools and districts. Accordingly, the system works on a variety of older hardware and operating system configurations, such as Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.4.4. Detailed information on the minimum necessary specifications to operate the assessment system can be found in the Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and System Requirements Specifications report. For example, this report specifies that headphones are required to participate in some of the new multimedia items that assess listening.

The spring 2014 Smarter Balanced field test is a secure test. Test administration training will be required, and states will be responsible for ensuring proper and secure test administration at each site.

Registration and field test timeline

  • Smarter Balanced field test window – March 18 to June 16, 2014
  • Test administrator training modules – Jan. 28, 2014
  • Help-desk email support – Aug. 15, 2013 – June 6, 2014
  • Help-desk phone support – Feb. 18, 2014 – June 6, 2014

Reminder: Practice tests are now available

The Consortium has also released practice tests to give all interested students, teachers and schools an early look at sample sets of Smarter Balanced assessment questions.

Visit the Maine DOE Smarter Balanced Assessments page for more information.

Contact information

If you have any questions, concerns or comments, please contact Susan Fossett at susan.fossett@maine.gov or the Smarter Balanced Help Desk at smarterbalancedhelpdesk@ets.org.