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 Smarter Balanced Field Testing Begins

The Smarter Balanced Field Test launched last week, marking an important milestone in California's transition to a new assessment system as it assesses technological capacity and the quality of test questions, and helps students and teachers prepare for next year's first operational test.

"Over the next three months, students, teachers, and administrators will gain valuable hands-on experience in a new era of student assessments," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. "With more than three million students participating, this is the largest field test of its kind in the nation. It is a challenging transformation, but our schools are rising to that challenge with a great sense of excitement and determination."

Field testing began in a few districts March 25 and runs through June 6. By the end, more than three million students in school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools will have had a chance to try the new system.

This "test of the test" will serve multiple purposes—foremost gauging the accuracy and fairness of the test questions ahead of the new assessments becoming operational next year. Across the nation, more than 20,000 assessment questions and performance tasks will be evaluated to determine which work well and which need to be improved. Test questions are aligned with the Common Core State Standards adopted by California in 2010 to encourage critical thinking, complex problem solving, and deeper knowledge of subjects.

"I am particularly interested in hearing teachers' views on the questions and their appropriateness for the students they work with every day," Torlakson said.

The field test also serves as a barometer of technology capability, allowing the state and local educational agencies to assess computer availability and server capacity to prepare for the new testing in spring 2015. Furthermore, teachers will be able to observe the computer savviness of their students.

 "This field test gives us the opportunity to prepare our students for success," Torlakson said. "The STAR program served us well for years, but the world has changed, and our schools also have to change the way they teach and test their students."

The field test, which will cover English-language arts and mathematics, will take place between March 25 and June 6, with districts testing within assigned six-week windows during this timeframe. Most San Diego County students will take the assessments in April and May. All students in grades three through eight will participate, as well as a sample of students in grades nine and ten and most eleventh graders.

The test will be about 3½ hours long, and no paper and pencil version will be offered during the field test. There will be no student, school, or district scores produced from this administration of the assessment.

Additional information may be found on the California Department of Education Web page.