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Testing In Progress – Why Smarter Balanced Assessments is the “next big thing” in standardized testing.

Submitted by on May 15, 2015 – 11:30 am
Nick Marquadt reads quietly after taking Wednesdays Smarter Balanced Assessment

Nick Marquadt reads quietly after taking Wednesdays Smarter Balanced Assessment

The halls of PHS have been abnormally quiet in the mornings this week due to Smarter Balanced testing. The whole school is on a 2-hour delayed start schedule, except the juniors. The rest of the students aren’t required to be at school until 10:25.

What exactly is the Smarter Balanced test?

According the the official website,, the test is “an online assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).” The test is used to help adapt teaching and learning methods. The program is based out of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. The test measures English Language Arts, Literacy, and Mathematics in a series of four tests, two of which are English and two of which are math-based. Participation in the Smarter Balanced assessment is optional in Montana this year, due to computer glitches, but schools that administer the test are given funding for their students’ participation and results.

The consortium behind the Smarter Balanced assessment claims that a “high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help students succeed – regardless of disability, language or subgroup.”

The site helps to explain the benifits of these new assessments. The benefits they attribute to the tests include: measuring real-world skills, providing valuable information that goes beyond a score on the test, and allowing students to show their work. In English “students won’t just choose the correct answer. They will have to write well-organized essays that explain and justify their reasoning and answer open-ended and multi-step questions based on real-world scenarios. In math, they will solve problems and create visual representations of concepts” (

The page includes an interview with 2010 teacher of the year Sarah Brown Wessling, a high school English teacher from Iowa, who advocates for the new testing programs. She believes that the new tests are quality replacements for the previous tests, “I want to see assessments that go beyond a bubble test,” and that is what Smarter Balanced aims to so, she said.

So Smarter Balanced aims to replace previous standardized testing with an innovative and in-depth assessment that gives students more than just a score. The results from the Smarter Balanced assessments will be used to evaluate and place students into the classes that they are most fitted for.