FAQs

Smarter Balanced Assessments 

Smarter Balanced has developed a fair and reliable system of assessments for English and math for grades 3-8 and 11 aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Administered online, these assessments provide an academic check-up and are designed to give teachers and parents better information to help students succeed.

1. What are the achievement levels?

Smarter Balanced Assessment results are reported in terms of four levels of achievement: Level 1 ("minimal"), Level 2 ("partial"), Level 3 ("adequate"), and Level 4 ("thorough"). Achievement levels 1-4 represent a range of scores that describe a student’s level of knowledge, skills, and processes, and indicate on-track progress toward college- and career-readiness. While all children have individual strengths and areas for growth, generalizations can be inferred based on performance within an achievement level. The achievement level provides information to help support students' academic needs in math and English Language Arts, and serves as a starting point for discussion about the performance of individual students and groups of students.

2. When will the results be received by parents/guardians, teachers, schools?

School personnel should receive results some time after the close of the testing window and results will be forwarded to parents.

3. How is Smarter Balanced different from the CMT or CAPT?

Unlike the CMT/CAPT, the Smarter Balanced Assessments will be administered online and will go beyond multiple choice questions to include short answers, performance tasks, and technology enhanced items such as drawing that allow students to demonstrate research, writing, and analytical skills. In addition to the year-end test, Smarter Balanced provides interim assessments to monitor student progress and inform teaching and learning. Also, an online reporting system will be used to provide timely, clear data on student achievement and growth. These reports will present teachers with information they can use to help students make even greater progress.

4. Are sample tests available to preview the types and styles of questions?

Yes. Sample tests are available here http://ct.portal.airast.org/training-tests. (Sign in as "Guest"). The purpose of these training tests is to become familiar with the system, functionality, and item types and provide students and teachers with opportunities to familiarize themselves with the software and navigational tools. All universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations approved by Smarter Balanced are available on these tests. Training tests are available for both mathematics and ELA and are organized by grade bands (grades 3 – 5, grades 6 -8, and grades 9 – 11), with each test containing a range of question types. The training tests, however, do not contain performance tasks. 

5. What is a performance task?

Performance tasks allow students to demonstrate critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to complex real-world problems. These activities are meant to measure capacities such as depth of understanding, writing and research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with traditional assessment questions. The performance tasks will be taken on a computer (but will not be computer adaptive) and will take one to two class periods to complete.

6. Do the Smarter Balanced Assessments support English language learners, students with disabilities, and students with special needs?

The Smarter Balanced Assessment System will provide accurate measures of achievement and growth for students with disabilities and English language learners. The assessments will address visual, auditory, and physical access barriers—allowing virtually all students to demonstrate what they know and can do. Accommodations will be available to students with a documented need noted in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan. These tools include Braille and closed captioning, among others. Smarter Balanced Governing States recently approved Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines for the assessment system, which will shape the delivery of online testing for all students, including those with visual, auditory, linguistic, or physical needs.

To ensure the assessments meet the needs of all students:

- A set of universal accessibility tools—such as a digital notepad and scratch paper—will be available to all students.
- Designated supports—like a translated pop-up glossary—will be made available to students for whom a need has been identified by school personnel familiar with each student’s needs and testing resources.
- Accommodations will be available to students with a documented need noted in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan. These tools include Braille and closed captioning, among others.

7. How will my child's score on the Smarter Balanced Assessment compare with the previous state standardized tests (CMT & CAPT)?

Since the new assessments measure higher state standards, the definition of grade level performance is also more rigorous than it was with the former tests. This may mean that fewer students meet grade level standards, but it does not mean that students are doing worse. Because students are being assessed against new standards, comparisons cannot be made between the two tests. As with any set of new standards, we expect results will improve as students have additional experience with the new expectations.

8. If Connecticut is no longer using CMT and CAPT, why does my child (grades 5, 8, 10) still have to take the Science CMT or CAPT?

While the Smarter Balanced Assessment replaces the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) tests, by state and federal law, the science CMT is required in grades 5 and 8 and the Science CAPT will continue in grade 10.

9. How does Computer Adaptive Technology work?

The Smarter Balanced assessment system capitalizes on the precision and efficiency of computer adaptive tests,  a significant improvement over traditional paper-and-pencil assessments. Computer adaptive testing adjusts to a student’s ability by basing the difficulty of future questions on previous answers. The adaptive software runs in the background while students complete the assessment. After each response, the software adjusts the level of question difficulty based on the student performance. This allows for more challenging questions for students are successfully completing items, and an easing down of the level of challenge for students who are struggling.

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