Smarter Balanced Releases Preliminary Test Blueprints” by Lisa Kennedy was originally posted on Navigator.

digital blueprintOn November 29, 2012, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) released preliminary test blueprints for their summative assessments. While it may be true that only educational assessment geeks (guilty as charged!) get excited about test blueprints, anyone who is concerned about Common Core assessments should be interested, as the test blueprints contain valuable information about how assessments will be shaped.

The blueprints Smarter Balanced released are still subject to change based on the results of pilot and field testing; however, the blueprints will inform test developers as well as those designing curriculum and instruction for the Common Core State Standards. Final blueprints will be approved by governing states prior to the full implementation of Smarter Balanced’s summative assessments in 2014–2015.

According to Smarter Balanced, their blueprints detail the following:

  • Content (standards, indicators, claims) that is to be included for each assessed content area and grade, across various levels of the system (student, classroom, school, district, state);
  • Emphasis and Balance of content, generally indicated as number of items or percentage points per standard and indicator;
  • Item Types, sending a clear message to item developers how to measure each standard and indicator, and to teachers and students about learning expectations; and
  • Depth of Knowledge (DOK), indicating the complexity of item types for each standard and indicator. (Smart Balanced Assessment Consortium: Preliminary Test Blueprints, 2)

Remember that the key difference between the Smarter Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is that Smarter Balanced is developing a computer adaptive assessment. This means that Smarter Balanced’s summative assessments will adjust by presenting harder questions or easier questions as needed in order to measure each student’s ability level. PARCC’s summative assessments will be “fixed form,” meaning all students will receive test items that are statistically at the same level of difficulty.

You can learn more about the differences between Smarter Balanced and PARCC here.

ELA/Literacy Summative Assessments

Smarter Balanced’s preliminary blueprint tables indicate that the summative assessments for ELA/literacy will consist of 32 to 48 computer adaptive test (CAT) items, depending on grade level. These computer adaptive items will be both selected response and constructed response; some of these items will be technology enhanced. All of the computer adaptive test items, however, will be automatically scored. (For a summary of the sample items that Smarter Balanced has released, see my blog post from early November.)

The CAT items will cover both literary and informational reading, with an emphasis on informational texts from 6th grade to high school. In addition, these items will cover some targeted Common Core State Standards in Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Research.

Each ELA/literacy summative assessment will also include a performance task (PT) that will cover Writing and Research assessment targets. The PT will combine three selected-response and constructed-response items with a longer constructed-response essay that will be scored for Purpose/Focus/Organization, Evidence/Elaboration, and Conventions. According to Smarter Balanced, some PTs will be scored automatically, while others will be scored by hand.

Mathematics Summative Assessments

Based on the preliminary blueprint tables released by Smarter Balanced, the summative assessments for mathematics will consist of 30 to 41 computer adaptive test (CAT) items, depending on grade level. This array of items will consist of selected-response and constructed-response item types. Technology-enhanced items will be included as well. The mathematics blueprints are more specific than the ELA/literacy blueprints in that they detail the item types and assessment targets per grade level, rather than per grade strand.

The CAT items will include all four of Smarter Balanced’s mathematics assessment claims: Concepts and Procedures, Problem Solving, Communicating Reasoning, and Modeling and Data Analysis, although Problem Solving and Modeling and Data Analysis will be combined in one score category to reduce test length. The specific assessment targets and corresponding item types are specified in the blueprint tables per grade level.

Each mathematics summative assessment will also include one PT, which will involve stimuli (e.g., class discussion, small-group work, graphs, charts) plus extended constructed-response item types. The PTs will focus on Problem Solving, Communicating Reasoning, and Modeling and Data Analysis.

To learn more, check out the preliminary test blueprints from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

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