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Smarter Balanced Assessments History and Support

What is it? (source:

Smarter Balanced is the result of state education agency staff, teachers, higher education faculty, and other educators working together to create a “best of the best” assessment system with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of students who are well prepared for college and careers.

This effort began with the recognition that most assessment systems were disjointed, outdated, and did not offer a cohesive set of tools to help educators improve teaching and learning. In 2010, 30 states came together to submit a grant application to create a system that would redefine assessments to feature the following characteristics:

  • Conducted online and customizable for students
  • Composed of test questions that measure essential skills such as critical thinking, writing, and problem-solving
  • Provides the widest array of features ever assembled to ensure testing is fair for all student
  • Supports teachers in professional development and in-class assessment tools

The consortium of states that developed Smarter Balanced were awarded a $178 million federal grant, with the state of Washington acting as the fiscal agent. Over the next four years, these states and educators from across the country built an assessment system that would make history by becoming the most widely used test in the United States.

In 2014, as the federal grant was ending, Smarter Balanced became a public agency housed at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

Smarter Balanced is now funded by the states that use its system. It is governed by its membership, which sets its budget and policies, operates the system, and continues to support research and development to further improve assessment.

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Parent Support

Smarter Balanced Assessment Opt-Out Information

Under the Student Assessment Bill of Rights, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Oregon’s school districts must provide families with a “Notice of Statewide Tests and Opt-out Form” 30 days before the start of statewide testing.

Smarter Balanced Assessments offer significant improvements over previous state tests, including writing at every grade, new question types, and performance tasks that ask students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems. Unlike the previous, multiple-choice-only tests, the new assessments include question formats that allow students to demonstrate a broader set of skills, like critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical writing.

The recently-adopted more rigorous national standards, called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), raise the bar for students in grades K-12. With the Common Core State Standards, Oregon students are now gaining important critical-thinking, problem solving, and effective communication skills, and educators now have a blueprint that defines what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade and what to do if they are not quite where they should be. Teachers across the nation have been implementing these new standards to help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to be successful after graduation.

To accurately measure student learning as well as help educators pinpoint areas in need of improvement, it is important that the tests align to the new standards. The Smarter Balanced Assessments provide an academic check-up and are designed to help teachers and parents know whether students are on track to be college- and career-ready by the time they graduate. Additionally, the tests help target district improvement plans. When fewer students take the test, a district is left with an incomplete and inaccurate picture of how students are performing, and this limits the ability to address issues, better serve students, and continue to improve the educational system.

In North Santiam School District, staff are deeply committed to ensuring each and every student in school has the support they need to achieve at high levels and graduate prepared for the next steps. The district's ultimate goal is to make sure that all students are set up to be successful from grade to grade.

Parents are encouraged to reach out to their child’s teacher(s) with any questions they may have about the new assessment and about their student's progress. A document with answers to "frequently asked questions" regarding the new state tests is attached. Information regarding the right to opt-out is located at