SBA News from the Field

A couple of weeks ago, Beth had the opportunity to participate in one of five Smarter Balanced Alignment Workshops. She applied for the workshop via the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) late last Fall and was notified of her participation in early January, when she was assigned to one of two Grade 11 ELA teams. This week’s post is dedicated to information she learned in the two-day meeting:

To provide a bit of background, Smarter Balanced developed “content specifications to ensure that the assessments cover the range of knowledge and skills in the Common Core State Standards” ( for both ELA and math. The consortium further scaffolded the alignment process from Claims (the broad statements of learning outcomes), like Claim #1: Reading, where students are expected to demonstrate they can “read closely and analytically to comprehend a range of increasingly complex literary and informational texts;” to Assessment Targets (which provide more detail about the range of content/Depth of Knowledge), like “Summarize central ideas/key events using key relevant details, to Evidence Statements, such as “The student will determine or summarize key events in a text using supporting evidence.”

From there, the consortium developed in the neighborhood of 20,000 ELA/literacy and mathematics items/performance tasks (assessment questions) spanning the assessing grades (3-8 & 11). At a glance, the workshop’s intent was to have a group of educators evaluate:

  1. Whether or not assessment items (Selected Response, Constructed Response, and Performance Tasks) are aligned to their proposed Depth of Knowledge (DOK);
  2. Whether or not assessment items are aligned to and reflective of Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium Claims, Assessment Targets and Evidence Statements; and
  3. Whether or not assessment items are aligned to the appropriate Common Core State Standard(s).

Over the course of the two days, each 11th grade ELA team examined roughly 2 Performance Tasks, 50 Constructed Response, and 240 Selected Response items! Similar numbers of items were reviewed at each grade level as well. What wasn’t finished on site was completed from home. With ten pairs of eyes evaluating the same items at each grade level, confidence rose across participants that SBAC is working hard to ensure a valid, reliable and fair assessment for students.

Math folks, for insider information on the SBA Alignment Workshops in your content area, check in with Keelie Keown at Sam Barlow HS. She participated in the Week 4 Workshop on an 11th grade math team.

In addition to our alignment work, a few things were clarified from SBA administrators:

  • The classroom activity which accompanied early versions of performance tasks but are absent in the online practice tests, are indeed alive and well. Such activities allow teachers to lead a topic discussion with students, prior to administering the Performance Task.
  • Estimated testing times for assessments are just that, estimates. Performance Tasks, for instance, were designed to be completed in two hours. Those of you involved in our own GBSD Practice Performance Tasks at 7th or 10th grade prior to spring break, may beg to differ with that statement as we witnessed more than a few students return incomplete or blank booklets.
  • 11th grade ELA Performance Tasks (PT) can be Argumentative or Informative in nature. Up until my participation in the alignment workshop, I had not seen an Informative high school PT.

In all, the experience was a rewarding one! The assessments are sure to be rigorous, but they also appear to be heading in the right direction to assure validity and reliability.


2 thoughts on “SBA News from the Field

  1. Kelly Deatherage

    I’m using a practice assessment from Achieve the Core to give kids exposure to the kinds of work they’ll begin next year. Any idea of how closely those tasks might mirror SBA tasks?
    Kelly D @ Damascus

    1. bethandshannon Post author

      Hi Kelly,

      Should be pretty close since Achieve the Core is founders are three of the lead CCSS writers! If you want to tell me which assessment you’re using, I’ll take a look and give you my humble opinion, having recently been steeped in SBA. ~Beth


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