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What is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and how will it affect our school or district

By Richard Capone, CEO Let's Go Learn

A lot of schools have asked us about the implications of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  In its own words, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is a “state-led consortium working collaboratively to develop next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)…”

With the next generation of state assessments based on the Common Core standards, implemented in schools during the 2014-15 school year, you should expect to see the latest technology in testing.  Like Let’s Go Learn’s assessments, these will be adaptive and will be totally online.

There will be several parts to the Smarter Balanced assessments.  There will continue to be mandatory end-of-year assessments, summative in nature and allowing for the measurement of student progress and the comparison across schools and states.  With such a purpose in mind, one can assume that while these assessments will likely provide more information than current assessments, they still will not be as diagnostic as an assessment whose main goal is to inform instruction.

In addition, there will be optional assessments that can be used during the school year as well as “formative tools” that teachers can use.  These assessments and tools are intended to inform instruction. 

At Let’s Go Learn, our approach to testing has always been focused on the diagnostics.  Our format of diagnostic assessment will be different than the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  While we both report on Common Core standards, we focus on finding instructional points that teachers can use.  For instance, our ADAM K-7 assessment is built to the Common Core standards, but it assesses students based on 44 linear strands found in K-7 math.  This means we find the exact instructional level of a student within a wide range of mathematical construct, regardless of their grade level.  Our diagnostic range will adapt higher and lower, allowing teachers to pinpoint student strengths and weaknesses.  And our assessment is valid at the section level.  In order to be valid with such a high number of sections, we have more items per concept.  With over ten years of adaptive test experience, Let’s Go Learn has had plenty of time and experience to fine tune our adaptive testing, providing valid and reliable assessments that teachers can really use.

In terms of what you will need to do to prepare, you will have to be able to test all students online at your district.  Let’s Go Learn customers are already accustomed to doing this, but if you have not used any form of online testing, you may want to do so prior to the rollout.  The window for testing will increase because states realize that all students will need to go through computer labs.  Thus instead of testing everyone in a week, it will probably be a 4 week window.

I recently presented at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley about adaptive testing and the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how to prepare for its coming.  I will be presenting two more time in the near future in California. Stay tuned for these dates and locations.  I’ll post them to this blog.  Feel free to contact us if you have questions.

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