Resources » Academic and Assessments

Academic and Assessments



Starting in the spring of the 2014-15 school year, students in grades 3-8 and 11 will take the new Smarter Balanced tests aligned to the Washington State Learning Standards in English language arts (ELA) and math.


Why is the state assessment changing?

  • The state assessment is one of many assessments we give our students to keep track of their learning.  All major decisions about a student are based on multiple pieces of information about the student's achievement.
  • The purpose of the state assessment is to measure how well all our students are progressing on learning the state standards.
  • Standards are statements of what students need to know and be able to do at each grade level, and are designed to prepare our students for being successful in whatever future they choose.
  • We must prepare all our students to live and work successfully in the world of the future, one of constant change and innovations.
  • Washington State first developed state standards in the 1990's.
  • These standards have been revised a few times since then, to keep up with the changing times.
  • In 2011, Washington State adopted a new set of state standards, called the Common Core State Standards, to be fully implemented in 2014-15.
  • The Common Core Standards were developed by teachers, content experts, and state leaders from across the country.
  • They have been adopted by more than 45 states.
  • The Common Core Standards are designed to help students develop a deeper understanding of subject matter, think critically, and apply what they learn to the real world.  Video:
  • The state assessment is changing in order to measure our students' progress on the new Common Core State Standards, designed to help students be ready for college and career.
  • The new assessment is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA).

What does the Smarter Balanced Assessment Look Like?

  • The Smarter Balanced Assessment is administered online, using "adaptive" testing and will provide achievement scores and growth information for individual students and groups.
  • The assessment will be given in grades 3-8 and 11.
  • For grades 3-8 it will replace the MSP in reading, writing and math.
  • For high school it will replace HSPE/EOCs in a phased-in approach (SBA will be a graduation requirement for the Class of 2019 when they reach 11th grade).
  • Science MSP will continue to be given in grades 5 and 8, and Biology EOC will be given in high school, until a new assessment for the Next Generation Science Standards is ready.
  • The Smarter Balanced Assessment has two subject area tests:
    • English/Language Arts
      • Reading across the content areas
      • Writing
      • Listening
      • Research/Inquiry
    • Mathematics
      • Understanding of math concepts
      • Math skills and fluency
      • Application to real-life problems
  • The test is not timed.
  • Estimated times vary by grade level from about 3-4.5 hours per subject area test.
  • Students may take each subject area test over 1 to 3 days.
  • Many online tools are built into the Smarter Balanced Assessment, such as:
    • Highlighter
    • Calculator
    • Zoom
    • Digital notepad
    • English dictionary and glossary

In addition, all students will be allowed to have scratch paper, protractor, ruler, and other tools.

  • The Smarter Balanced Assessment includes a variety of types of questions:
    • Multiple choice
    • Short answer
    • Technology-enhanced items
    • Performance tasks - Questions with multiple parts, including short answers and essays, based on a real-world situation
  • Accommodations will be available for student with disabilities and for those who are English Language Learners (ELL) in a similar way as on the current state tests, such as:
    • ASL
    • Braille
    • Text to speech
    • Translations
    • Bilingual dictionaries
  • Alternative assessments will continue to be available for students with disabilities at all tested grade levels.
  • Alternative options for high school graduation will also continue to be available, for students who have difficulty in a standard testing environment.

For more information on the Smarter Balanced Assessment please visit:


Family Resources

Ready Washington is a coalition of state and local education agencies, associations and advocacy organizations that support college-and career-ready learning standards and assessments:  Common Core State Standards, next Generation Science Standards and Smarter Balanced assessments.


Common Core State Standards

     -Video series

     -Webinar series

     -Parents'Guides to Student Success

     -Common Core State Standards: What Parents Should Know

  • Council for Great City Schools (available in Spanish)

     -Parent Roadmaps (PDFs)

     -Videos and public service announcements

     -Top 8 Questions Parents Ask Teachers (PDF)