Smarter Balanced Assessments 8 [updated]

Update:  Education Week has an article on the challenges of upgrading technology for “next generation assessments.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has released sample items for both the English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics assessments.  The “view more sample items” drop down menu displays the grade bands and claim being assessed in each sample item, as well as allowing the viewer to filter the items, for example, to display only those that are technology-enhanced.  The “item score” and “about this item” drop down text box provide information about scoring.

A Quick Recap:

Time for Test Administration

–                 Iowa Assessments          Smarter Balanced (times are estimated)

Grades     Core        Complete          Short        Long

3            4h30min     5h40min          6h30min     10h30min

4-5         3h45min     4h55min          6h30min     10h30min

6-8         3h45min     4h55min          7h               11h

HS          2h35min     3h55min          8h               13h

Cost of Test Administration

Iowa Assessments:                                                        $3.50 per student

Smarter Balanced (summative assessment only):         $19.81 per student

Smarter Balanced (with optional interim assessment):  $27.31 per student

Initial Thoughts and Some Questions:

I am warming up to the format used on the Mathematics assessment for the Expressions and Equations questions 1 and 2, although it seems like this question format could easily be used on a regular bubble answer sheet style standardized exam.

I am not convinced that computer testing is a huge advance over the paper booklet type (keeping in mind results may still take weeks to be returned).  For example, I don’t think that the animated swimmers or the need to click a button to move water from one tank to another adds much to the mathematics questions (although I see on the second time through that a different amount of water moved).

I do wonder about all of the questions that are “not currently scored automatically.”  How does that affect the computer adaptive feature of the test?  If they aim to have real-time human scoring of these questions, will they be able to keep up when thousands of students are taking the test at the same time?  What happens if they can’t?

When the results are reduced to numbers on a score report, how much more value will these numbers have over the ones administrators, teachers, and parents already get from the Iowa Assessments?  Are the questions really getting at something significantly different and more valuable than current Iowa Assessment questions?

If you have checked out the sample items, what do you think?  Are they an improvement over current Iowa Assessment questions?  Are they worth the added expense of time and money to administer?

HT: Dir. Jason Glass on the release of sample items.

HT: Matt Townsley on the Iowa Assessment working times.


2 thoughts on “Smarter Balanced Assessments 8 [updated]

  1. Matt Townsley

    Another question that’s been swirling around in my head: SBAC is tied with the common core which is math and ELA only (, so would Iowa schools still utilize the science and social studies batteries from the Iowa Assessments? Granted, federal accountability only requires math and language arts ( scores to be reported, I am guessing many schools currently test students in more than just these two areas.

    1. Karen W Post author

      That is a good question and one that hadn’t occurred to me. Would the districts be using the science and social studies results to guide/evaluate curriculum and instruction decisions? In which case they would still want to administer the tests for those purposes, regardless of what the state requires for federal accountability purposes?

      I guess we may need to add time to the school year just to accommodate all the testing.

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