Smarter Balanced Releases Sample Assessment Items and Performance Tasks

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) released a set of sample assessment items and performance tasks online this week. Developed in collaboration with educators and content experts, the sample items and tasks are meant to help teachers, administrators, and policymakers better understand the Common Core State Standards and prepare for the implementation of the Smarter Balanced assessments.

Idaho is a governing state in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is working to develop the next generation of assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. These assessments will be implemented in the 2014-2015 school year. Idaho's own Deputy Superintendent Dr. Carissa Miller serves as Executive Committee Co-Chair.

Idaho teachers and school administrators can use these sample items and performance tasks to get a look at what the assessment will be like and to begin planning their shift in instruction.

The samples include nearly 50 assessment items and performance tasks, including examples of innovative, technology-enhanced items that take advantage of computer-based administration to assess a deeper understanding of content and skills than would otherwise be possible with traditional item types. In addition, sample performance tasks showcase the extended classroom-based activities students will experience as part of the Smarter Balanced assessment system.

"Performance tasks ask students to research and analyze information, weigh evidence, and solve problems relevant to the real world, allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in an authentic way," said Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University and senior research advisor for Smarter Balanced. "The Smarter Balanced assessment system uses performance tasks to measure skills valued by higher education and the workplace—critical thinking, problem solving, and communication—that are not adequately assessed by most statewide assessments today."

The sample items and performance tasks include several features to help teachers, students, and parents prepare for the new assessments. Each item has detailed information about the standards and assessment targets being measured. In addition, most selected-response and technology-enhanced items can be automatically scored, providing instant feedback to users. Scoring rubrics are available for constructed-response items and performance tasks. Select English language arts/literacy items include a text complexity analysis that explains how quantitative and qualitative factors were evaluated to determine the appropriate grade level of a passage.

Smarter Balanced is working with K-12 teachers and higher education faculty to write and review assessment items and performance tasks. Among those that provided feedback on draft items and tasks was Student Achievement Partners, an organization founded by contributing authors of the Common Core State Standards.

The sample items and performance tasks released this week represent just a small fraction of the more than 10,000 items and tasks being written to support the Pilot Test in early 2013. In addition, the Smarter Balanced sample items are displayed in a simulated test platform that does not include accessibility tools and accommodations options that will be available through the operational assessment system—such as Braille, translation options, and the ability to change font size, highlight text, or magnify portions of items.

The sample items and performance tasks can be accessed from the Smarter Balanced website at http://www.smarterbalanced.org/sample-items-and-performance-tasks/.