Smarter Balanced Assessments

Students began taking the Smarter Balanced assessments in spring 2015.  The assessments are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and these Standards are designed to prepare students to be college- and career-ready by the time they graduate from high school. Students in grades 3-8 are assessed each spring in English Language Arts (ELA) and in math. High school students also take Smarter Balanced ELA and math tests, beginning in tenth grade.

What are the Smarter Balanced tests like?

  • All testing is done online, and the tests are adaptive. This means that, to a certain extent, the test questions will become more difficult – or easier – depending on how each student responds.
  • The tests are untimed.
  • Each subject test – ELA or math – will take multiple sessions to complete; students will not finish a test in a single day. Estimated testing time per subject is about three to four hours.
  • Each test is composed of a computer adaptive section (multiple choice, fill in the blank, etc), plus a performance task section that will better measure a student’s depth of understanding, research and analysis skills, etc.

Try out a Smarter Balanced practice test for yourself!

We encourage parents and students to check out the practice and training tests, plus the many resources available to the public:  http://wa.portal.airast.org/training-tests. Students will also have designated practice sessions during the school day before actual testing begins.


High School Testing

Students’ state testing requirements for a diploma vary by graduation year and according to legislative changes.  For updated information on test-related graduation requirements, please check the state’s website http://www.k12.wa.us/assessment/StateTesting/default.aspx .

For any test required for graduation, students have multiple opportunities to take and retake that test.  Also, there are other ways to meet a test standard if a student has trouble passing the test – the state offers several Approved Options, such as qualifying SAT or ACT scores.  For more information on Options, contact your school counselor or review  http://www.k12.wa.us/assessment/GraduationAlternatives/default.aspx.

Students with IEPs (Individual Education Plans) have additional options to meet the test standards required for a diploma, such as off-level tests or an alternate assessment.

2016-17 School Year Testing Windows

  • November 2016
    • Smarter Balanced retakes (gr 10-12, selected students)
  • January – February 2017
    • End-Of-Course algebra/geometry (gr 11-12, as needed)
    • End-Of-Course biology (gr 11-12, as needed)
  • March – June 2017
    • Smarter Balanced ELA and Math (gr 10–all; gr 11-12 as needed)
  • June 2017
    • End-Of-Course algebra/geometry (gr 11-12 as needed)
    • End-Of-Course biology (gr 8 and up, if enrolled in Biology; gr 10-12 as needed)

Who will test?

  • Grade 9 – No Smarter Balanced testing. If enrolled in Biology, students will take the End-Of-Course Biology exam in June, which is currently a diploma requirement.
  • Grade 10 – All students will take the Smarter Balanced ELA and Math tests this spring (diploma requirement). If not previously passed, students will take the End-Of-Course Biology test.
  • Grade 11 – If not previously passed, students will take the Smarter Balanced ELA test – this is both a diploma requirement and a federal accountability requirement. As needed, students will take the End-Of-Course Algebra or Geometry test, and/or the End-Of-Course Biology test.  In addition, to comply with federal accountability rules, 11th graders are required to take the Smarter Balanced math test.
  • Grade 12 – Students may take the Smarter Balanced ELA or Math test, if diploma requirements have not yet been met. Similarly, some students will take the End-Of-Course Algebra or Geometry test and/or End-Of-Course Biology test, if not previously passed.
  • Students receiving special education services, grades 10-12 – Depending on IEP instructions, students will participate in high-school-level or off-grade-level Smarter Balanced tests or alternate assessments.

College Course Placement

Higher education institutions in Washington State – both community colleges and all 4-year public universities – have agreed to use Smarter Balanced scores in determining college course placement. High school graduates who score at level 3 or 4 on the high-school-level tests will be placed directly into credit-bearing courses.