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Smarter Balanced    Communications Toolkit

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Communications Toolkit

  ⇓    Understanding SBAC Assessments

  ⇓    Understanding the Common Core

  ⇓    Engaging Parents

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About the Toolkit

Across America, teachers are helping students meet the high expectations of college- and career-ready standards. In the coming school year, new assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards will give teachers new tools and better information to monitor student progress.

Many parents and community members are just learning about the new standards and assessments being implemented in schools. Teachers play an important role in helping parents and community members understand the changes going on in our classrooms and what they will mean for students.

This toolkit is intended to assist educators in communicating about the Smarter Balanced Assessment System.

Download editable version.


Announcements from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

About the Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balanced assessments are a key part of implementing the Common Core State Standards and preparing all students for success in college and careers.

  • The Common Core State Standards establish consistent academic expectations in English and mathematics for the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in college and careers. More than 40 states have adopted these standards and are working to provide teachers and students the support they need to reach them.
  • States are partnering in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to develop a new assessment system aligned to the Common Core to measure how well students are progressing toward readiness for college and careers.
  • The Smarter Balanced Assessment System will replace existing tests and offer significant improvements over tests of the past, including: writing at every grade; expanded accessibility features to meet the needs of all students; and performance tasks that ask students to demonstrate an array of research, writing, and problem solving skills.
  • In addition to measuring student achievement at the end of the school year, the Smarter Balanced Assessment System will provide information during the year to give teachers and parents a better picture of where students are succeeding and where they need help. The assessment system features flexible interim assessments that schools and districts can implement to gauge student progress during the year and inform instruction, as well as a Digital Library of teacher-selected resources on classroom-based formative assessments.
  • The work of Smarter Balanced is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help all students succeed—regardless of disability, language, or background. The assessment system include a wide array of accessibility tools for all students and accommodations—such as Braille—for those who need them.

A Field Test of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System took place from March 25 through June 13, culminating a three-year, multi-stage research and development process to ensure these assessments work properly.

  • More than four million students participated in the Field Test across 21 states.
  • This practice run helped to ensure that the assessments are accurate and fair for all students. It also gave teachers and schools a chance to practice test administration procedures, and students the opportunity to experience the new assessments.
  • Field testing is about “testing the test” itself—there will be no results shared with students, schools or districts, so there will not be any consequences for teachers or students.

Smarter Balanced states have worked closely with administrators, teachers, and students for more than two years to ensure a smooth roll-out of the new assessments, and to make sure schools and teachers have the right supports in place.

  • For the past two years, Smarter Balanced has worked directly with teachers and students across the country—through labs, discussions, the development of more than 20,000 test questions, and a preliminary Pilot Test last year—to ensure that the assessments accurately measure the full breadth and depth of the Common Core.
  • We didn’t expect this practice run to be perfect, and we expected to discover challenges. Working together with teachers and school administrators, states in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will address any issues identified prior to the launch of the assessment system in the 2014–15 school year.

About the Smarter Balanced Digital Library

The Digital Library is an online collection of resources aligned to the Common Core that will support K-12 teachers’ use of the formative assessment process. It includes:

  • Assessment literacy modules
  • Exemplar instructional modules
  • Education resources submitted and vetted by teachers

Teachers can rate materials and share their expertise with educators across the country.

About the Summative Assessments

The Summative Assessments will be administered during the last 12 weeks of the school year for grades 3-8 and 11, providing an accurate and fair measure of student growth and achievement.

  • Students will complete a computer adaptive test and performance task in English language arts and math.
  • Students will receive composite scores for each subject area and the following claim-level results:
    • English language arts-reading, writing, listening, and research;
    • Math-concepts and procedures, problem solving


educator resources for understanding the standards and assessments and engaging parents
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Understanding SBAC Assessments

Practice Test and Training Tests
The Practice and Training Tests are available to schools and districts for student orientation and preparation, professional development activities, and for discussions with parents, policymakers, and other interested stakeholders. The Practice and Training Tests are available for review.

  • Practice Tests - Available since May 2013, the Smarter Balanced Practice Tests allow teachers, students, parents, and other interested parties to experience a full grade-level assessment. The Practice Tests include a variety of items (approximately 30 items each in ELA/literacy and math) as well as an ELA/literacy and math performance task at each grade level (3–8 and 11).
  • Training Tests - The Training Tests were designed to provide students and teachers with opportunities to quickly familiarize themselves with the software and navigational tools used on the Smarter Balanced Field Test. The Training Test includes all new item types that were available on the Field Test organized by grade bands (grades 3 to 5, 6 to 8, and high school) and the full suite of accessibility and accommodations features that was available on the Field Test, including American Sign Language (ASL) videos for all listening items.

Training Modules

The Smarter Balanced Field Test Portal provides test preparation Training Modules for test administrators, teachers, and students. Although developed for the Field Test, these modules will be available for ongoing use. The modules include:

  • Let’s Talk Universal Tools acquaints students and teachers with the universal tools available on the test.
  • The Accessibility and Accommodations training module outlines the recommended uses of designated supports, available universal tools, and accommodations for student accessibility to the assessments.

Learn more about the Practice and Pilot Tests

Take the Practice Test (Select the student side.)

New Updates for Practice Test (May 2014)




Understanding the Common Core

Resources on the Web
Educators, parents, and interested community stakeholders should review some of these these resources for a deeper understanding of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts.

CoreStandards.org – Created by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, this is the official online home of the Common Core State Standards. This website includes information such as background on the development process, the key shifts, and the standards themselves.

CGCS Teacher Training Videos – Videos developed by the Council of Great City Schools for central office and school-based staff and teachers as an introduction to the instructional shifts required by the CCSS. English language arts and literacy areavailable.

Khan Academy – Khan Academy collaborated with Smarter Balanced, Illustrative Mathematics, and 40 educators to ensure the Common Core math materials are rigorous and fully aligned to the standards. The website includes a Common Core Map that allows teachers to explore problems related to each math standard at every grade level.

Share My Lesson – Website by the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect that offers information about the CCSS and high-quality resources aligned to the standards.

Teaching Channel – Website that offers a free library of high-quality videos featuring real teachers demonstrating their best educational practices with videos aligned to the CCSS.

Common Core in Practice – Series of videos by America Achieves that demonstrate effective instruction aligned to the CCSS.

Student Achievement Partners – Website that offers a variety of free, high-quality materials to help educators align their instruction to the Common Core.

EduCore – Tool that was developed by ASCD and provides secondary teachers with high-quality teaching and learning resources aligned to the CCSS.

NEA Common Core State Standards Toolkit – Toolkit designed to ensure members have the knowledge and understanding necessary to prepare for the implementation of CCSS.



Engaging Parents

Resources on the Web
Parents and educators can view these resources for a deeper understanding of how standards and assessments help increase student achievement.

Council of the Great City Schools Three-Minute Videos - The Council of the Great City Schools developed a three-minute video—available in English and Spanish—that gives a brief introduction to the CCSS and explains how the standards will help students prepare for college and career. The style and accessible language make these videos well-suited for presentations to community and parent groups.

Council of the Great City Schools Parent Roadmaps for English Language Arts and Literacy and for Mathematics - The Council of the Great City Schools developed parent roadmaps that provide grade-by-grade information for parents about the expectations of the CCSS, including examples of topics and content at each grade level and tips on supporting learning at home.

PTA Parents’ Guide to Student Success - The National PTA created guides in English and Spanish for grades K-12 to inform parents about the CCSS and support their children’s success. The guides outline the key concepts that students should be learning in each grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, methods for building relationships with teachers, and tips for planning for college and career.

PTA State Assessment Guides - These state-by-state guides discuss how new assessments will measure the new standards and provide better information for parents and teachers about student progress. The guides explain the different types of assessments and include sample test questions.





Last updated August 11, 2015