Teachers Find Smarter Balanced Assessments a Clear Improvement Over Prior State Tests

Teachers Find Smarter Balanced Assessments a Clear Improvement Over Prior State Tests

Los Angeles Teachers Analyze Test’s Quality, Rigor, and Implementation;

Teach Plus Policy Fellows’ Report Presents Key Findings from Teachers’ Feedback

LOS ANGELES, CA—With the results of new Common Core-aligned statewide tests about to be released to the public, what do California’s teachers think about the quality of the Smarter Balanced (SBAC) assessments?   Overall, they rate the content of the new test highly, with 70% of teachers finding it to be of higher quality than the previous California Standards Test (CST). 

A newly-released report from Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows, a diverse group of teachers from district and charter schools in Los Angeles, presents these and other findings from the feedback of 68 Los Angeles public school teachers who studied the SBAC assessment.

Teach Plus, a national non-profit that empowers teachers to lead improvements in policy and practice, held an event to test the SBAC test in May 2015 to offer teachers the opportunity to delve deeply into the assessment.  The teachers examined SBAC test items and reviewed the test’s alignment with Common Core State Standards, as well as its rigor, accessibility, and clarity across subject areas.  The teachers also took a critical look at what it would take to ensure successful implementation of the test, including necessary technology preparation for students and professional development for teachers.

“At a time when California’s students, parents, and teachers are receiving their first SBAC test scores, the findings tell an important story about the quality of the test and its significance to teaching and learning in the state,” said Mike Stryer, Executive Director of Teach Plus Los Angeles

“I agree with teachers who evaluated the SBAC test that this assessment is a great step in the right direction,” said Bootsie Battle-Holt, mathematics teacher and department chair at Marina del Rey Middle School and one of the report’s lead authors.  “As the test continues to develop, there are tremendous opportunities for SBAC to become a vehicle to address equity and access issues affecting curriculum, instructional alignment to college and career readiness, and the digital divide.”

Findings on test content:

  1. Teachers overwhelmingly agree that the Smarter Balanced assessments represent a significant improvement over the previous California Standards Test (CST).  70% of teachers rated SBAC assessments higher quality than CST.
  2. Teachers believe the SBAC assessments closely align with Common Core State Standards, assess an appropriate depth of student knowledge, and demand high levels of critical thinking.   More than half (53%) of teachers found SBAC to be well aligned with CCSS.  63% of teachers believed that SBAC is accessing an appropriate depth of student knowledge.
  3. Teachers think there is a need to ensure consistency across subject areas in the areas of rigor, accessibility, and clarity.

Findings on test implementation:

  1. Teachers identified a lack of preparation among students using appropriate technology prior to the administration of the SBAC, as well as a discrepancy between which technologies they believe are most appropriate for students and which technologies are currently used.
  2. Teachers feel strongly that they need uniform access to CCSS-aligned curricula and SBAC-aligned formative assessments, as well as the ability to develop these assessments themselves.
  3. Teachers expressed a need for professional development focused on how to use SBAC results to inform instruction and how to track students’ mastery of skills.

The event participants offered suggestions for SBAC assessment developers on content, and for district and state leaders on implementation. 

On Content:

  • More consistent rigorous expectations across all grade levels
  • Simplification of test questions in terms of length of text, complexity of instructions, and formatting

On Implementation:

  • Improved device training and experience for students
  • More consistent appearance of test questions across all technology platforms
  • Targeted professional development for teachers around use and interpretation of assessment data


About Teach Plus

Teach Plus aims to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Teach Plus runs three programs designed to place teacher leaders at the center of improvements in policy and practice: Teaching Policy Fellowship, C2 Initiative, and T3 (Turnaround Teacher Teams) Initiative.  The programs focus on demonstrably effective teachers who want to continue classroom teaching while also expanding their impact as leaders in their schools and in district, state, and national policy.  Since its inception in August 2009, Teach Plus has grown to a network of more than 20,000 solutions-oriented teachers across the country. www.teachplus.org

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