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Pilot Testing Common Core Assessments

The coming Common Core computer-based assessments will mark a major change in testing for districts, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is preparing with a nationwide pilot test to learn how real students react to the new format.

Smarter Balanced, one of two state-led consortia awarded federal funding to develop an assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards by the 2014-2015 school year, is composed of 24 states. The pilot test started in February, and will end in late May for grades 3 through 11 in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Students and schools do not receive scores, as it is designed only to test the assessment features, rather than student learning.

“The pilot test will allow the consortium to gather information about the performance of assessment items and the test delivery system under real-world conditions,” says Eddie Arnold, spokesperson for Smarter Balanced. “It informs the actual test that’s going to be conducted, and allows us to find out what items work, and what changes need to be made.”

The pilot assessment is administered online, to mirror the format of the operational assessments. However, it is not computer adaptive, as the actual assessments will be. The results will be used to help Smarter Balanced create the adaptive testing, Arnold says, which involves the computer adjusting the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment based on student responses.

The pilot is composed of two segments: a scientific sample, for which Smarter Balanced recruited about 6,000 schools (roughly 10 percent of schools from each state belonging to the consortium were selected, via a set of predetermined characteristics) to ensure data is representative, and a volunteer sample, for which any school in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium could register to participate.

It is the first of two large-scale tryouts of the assessments prior to implementation in the 2014-2015 school year, Arnold says, and a larger field test will be conducted in spring 2014, just months before the Common Core State Standards are implemented in districts.

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