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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the Smarter Balanced Assessment?

The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is a state required end of the year assessment aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts/literacy (ELA/literacy) and math. 

Who takes the test and when?

State and federal laws require students in grades 3 through 8 and high school to take the SBA in spring. Check your child’s school website for specific dates.

What does the SBA look like?

The ELA and Math tests have 2 parts: a computer adaptive test (CAT) and a performance task (PT). 

In addition to multiple-choice questions, Smarter Balanced assessments include extended response, technology enhanced items, and performance tasks. These demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving skills. Performance tasks challenge students to respond to complex real-world problems and include collections of questions and activities connected to a single theme or scenario. The performance tasks measure depth of understanding, writing and research skills, and complex analysis. These tasks are computer-based.

SBA uses computer adaptive testing (CAT). This approach provides more accurate scores for all students. For more information, please see the main SBA webpage on the ISD website.

What is the science assessment students have to take in school?

In addition to the SBA, students in grades 5, 8 and 11 take the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS), which assesses the Washington State 2013 K-12 Science Learning Standards. The WCAS students are allowed to test over multiple days if needed. For more information about this assessment, visit OSPI's Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science webpage.

How is the SBA information used by schools and teachers?

  1. All tests, including state assessments, provide information about student learning that help us (teachers and parents) instruct students better and help them succeed.
    • The purpose of a test is for the student to show what he/she has learned. Tests help students, parents, and teachers. The information from state assessment results helps teachers focus instruction on subject areas in which the student needs more time to understand and master the content.
    • Test results are important indicators of academic progress. Tests help educators design specialized instruction, set student learning goals, and monitor progress. Test results help teachers (and parents) address student learning needs early so students will be successful.
  1. State assessments can provide evidence that students are learning effectively and mastering common core standards.
    • Student performance data helps school administrators identify instructional strengths and weaknesses and make quality improvements to instruction that will benefit students. 
    • State assessment data is the primary “measurement” of student learning recognized and used by state educators and legislative officials to make decisions concerning public education. State assessment data on student performance is an important indicator of school success.

Are SBA scores used in determining students’ class grade or will it appear on the report card and transcript?

Test scores are not used in determining the child’s grade for the report card and are not included on a student’s transcript.

Where can I find the SBA score report for my child?

SBA score reports are available on Family Access under the “Portfolio” link on the left side of the screen. The titles will specify the test and when it was taken. Click on the hyperlinked name to open the .pdf of the report. Either download and save the .pdf or print the score report to keep for your records. Instructions to find SBA results can be found by clicking here.

How can I use the SBA score report to support the academic growth of my child?

This Individual Test Report includes details about your child’s performance on the test. The “what these results mean” and “next steps” sections help parents and schools understand the child’s performance on the test and guide their students’ learning. The report provides information on the strengths and weaknesses of your child in English language arts and mathematics. 

What if my child does not meet Standard (Level 1 or 2)?

Teachers and the school will work with the students based on the results to determine areas to better support student learning.

Students will not “get in trouble” if they do not meet standards. Do not be concerned about possible consequences of poor performance. Your student only has to do the best he/she can on testing day. While a student should strive to do his/her personal best on any test, know that there are no negative consequences for scores lower than standard. Learning is a process. Help your student set personal goals and work with your student and his/her teacher to achieve those goals.

What is the SBA graduation assessment requirement in high school?

Students must pass the SBA ELA and SBA Math, or state approved alternatives to be eligible to graduate. If your child is not successful on the SBA, talk with your high school counselor about state approved alternatives to meet this assessment graduation requirement.

Additional high school graduation requirement information can be found on OSPI's Graduation in Washington Toolkit webpage.

Should my child study to prepare for the test?

Students are not expected to “study” for the SBA. Curriculum in schools, aligned to the Common Core State Standards, provide students with the foundational knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving skills assessed on the SBA.

Students can become more familiar with the test by taking practice tests and reviewing sample test questions.

How can I help my child better prepare for the test?

To help familiarize your child with the tests, we encourage all families to set aside some time to help your student practice some test sample items. Please click here to access the Practice & Training tests for ELA, Math and WCAS (5th grade science).

Click on the icon for Practice & Training Tests, sign in as a Guest, and select your child’s grade level when prompted. While we have not had any issues with the Google Chrome browser, other web browsers are not compatible with the practice tests.

SBA Graphic

Smarter Balanced Assessments – Sample Items

For more information about the Smarter Balanced tests, visit www.k12.wa.us/smarter.

To try out an online Smarter Balanced practice test or a WCAS training test, visit https://wa.portal.airast.org/training-tests.stml.