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 What New Smarter Balanced Assessment Data Will and Won’t Tell Us

​When the results of new academic assessments become available in 2015, the way they look and what they tell us will be different from previous tests.

Not only are they new assessments, but they’re testing different skills and come with a newly revamped set of expectations based on the Common Core State Standards. Because of this, they won’t be comparable to previous statewide test results.

Though educators and parents won’t be able to measure progress by comparing the results with those from previous tests, the new assessments will provide more information much more quickly going forward. Parents and educators will be able to measure how much growth a student makes from year to year in real-world skills.

“This will help students and parents know if they are on track toward meeting the standards and being prepared for college and a career,” said Sally Bennett-Schmidt, assessment director for the San Diego County Office of Education.

With the new system, parents and educators will be able to easily compare student achievement between schools, districts and states to ensure that students are making progress.

The online assessments will feature a variety of different questions types as well as the typical multiple-choice ones. With performance tasks and more written responses, they will require a deeper understanding of key concepts and stronger problem-solving skills than previous tests did.

The increased rigor and emphasis on critical thinking is part of the Common Core standards created by state and education officials.

Students in grades 3 through 8 along with those in grade 11 will take the new online assessments in English language arts and mathematics.

The tests were created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a collaborative state-led group of educators, researchers, policymakers and community groups.

Local school districts have prepared for these new assessments in English language arts and mathematics by participating in a testing pilot, upgrading technology, and providing professional development for teachers and administrators.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that more than 40 states, including California, have voluntarily adopted.

The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school ready for college or the workforce.

For more information about the Common Core State Standards, visit