Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is a system of assessments aligned to Washington state standards in English language arts/literacy (ELA/literacy) and mathematics for grades 3-8 and high school.

Test Format
SBA tests are done online and they are not timed. Students will be given appropriate time to answer all questions. There are two main components to the SBA:

  1. Computer Adaptive Test: Adaptive tests taken on a computer adjust to a student’s ability by basing the difficulty of future questions on previous answers. An adaptive test gives a more precise estimate of a student’s ability than a paper/pencil test. This type of test gives an accurate measure of a student’s current performance on the Washington state standards and is a reasonable testing experience for students.
  2. Performance Task: A Performance Task challenges students to apply their knowledge and skills in response to a real-world problem. The task is a collection of questions and activities that connect to a single theme. This task is designed to measure a student’s depth of understanding, ability to answer difficult questions, and the ability to use and cite research in support of an idea.

High school students who receive a 3 or 4 on the Smarter Balanced Assessments are considered “college and career ready.”

Student Preparation: Practice Tests
The best way to prepare students for success on the SBA is through the regular instruction in the classroom that is aligned with the new Washington state standards. In addition to the aligned classroom curriculum, teachers will provide time for students to go through a training test to become familiar with the online test format.

Parents and students have access to sets of questions aligned to the new Washington state standards. Each practice test has about 30 questions as well as an answer key. Click here to find the practice tests.

Student Preparation: Interim Assessments
Interim Assessments are shorter assessments that are available to staff to use as tools to support teaching and learning throughout the year. The Smarter Balanced interim assessments are directly aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The items on the interim assessments are developed under the same conditions, protocols and review procedures as the summative Smarter Balanced Assessments. Interims are available in the subjects of English Language Arts and Math for grades 3-8 and high school. There are several types of interims for each subject at each grade level and are typically 15 items. Scores are provided to the teacher to help determine next steps in the instructional process.

Score Reports
Students receive a score (a number between 2000 and 3000) and an achievement level (1, 2, 3 or 4). A score is based on the student’s performance on the test. This score is then converted to an achievement level based on grade level expectations. Students who get an achievement level of 3 or 4 are considered on target to be college- and career-ready by the end of 12th grade. Sample score reports are available.

Parent Refusals
A parent/guardian may refuse to have their student take state tests. However, it is not recommended. The results provide specific feedback to the student, families and staff regarding progress on state standards. In addition, the Smarter Balanced assessment is one of the available graduation pathways for a student. Students must meet at least one graduation pathway in English Language Arts and mathematics to receive a high school diploma. Finally schools are required to meet a 95% participation rate in state testing for federal accountability purposes. A state testing refusal form is available at each school.