Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) are online assessments administered in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. Students take the SBA in grades 3-8 and 10, in compliance with state and federal law. Additionally, students in grades 5, 8, and 11 will take the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS). SBA and WCAS testing take place between Spring Break and June in school-selected schedules designed to make the best use of student instructional time and use resources efficiently. Contact your school for your testing dates.
High school students may use meeting standard on the SBA as a Graduation Pathway. To learn more about Graduation Pathways and other graduation requirements visit our graduation page.
What is the purpose of the SBA?
The SBA is a standardized test, which means that the test is provided in the same manner as much as possible for all students: in a quiet and familiar environment using tools and devices with which the students are familiar. The SBA is also a standards-based assessment, which means that the test is designed to determine the student’s level of understanding of the academic standards the students are learning in the classroom daily. Because the administration is standardized and based on grade level academic standards, we can look at SBA results across grade levels, schools, and districts, to better direct funding, professional development, and curriculum changes. SBA results are an important part of pursuing educational equity.
On an individual student basis, the SBA provides another piece of evidence to help teachers better understand how to adjust their curriculum and instruction to help individual students meet grade level standard.
SBA scores are not used to determine grade level promotion, graduation, teacher evaluation/retention/promotion, and are not used as the sole criteria for student program qualification or disqualification.
What should my student expect when taking the SBA?
The SBA is made up of two different types of tests which must be completed to earn a score:
Computer Adaptive Test (CAT): this test adapts to student responses to offer questions that are neither too hard nor too easy for the student based on how well the student answered previous questions. This gives a more accurate measure of what each student knows and can do.
Performance Tasks (PT): this test offers questions connected to a central text, problem, or scenario and includes extended activities that measure a student’s ability to integrate knowledge and skills across multiple standards—a key component of college and career readiness. Performance tasks will be used to better measure capacities such as depth of understanding, research skills and complex analysis. In English Language Arts, this includes a long write.
How long is the test?
SBAs are untimed and administered in age-appropriate sessions. Students take each subject test in multiple sessions, typically across multiple days. The times below are scheduling guidelines (not testing averages); some students will take longer, but most students will take less time. Students who don’t finish in the scheduled time will be allowed to finish their tests later. Students in grades 3-8 should have approximately 5 hours scheduled over multiple sessions for English Language Arts, and approximately 3 hours scheduled over multiple sessions for math. Students in grade 10 should have approximately 4 hours scheduled across multiple sessions for English Language Arts, and approximately 3.5 hours scheduled over multiple sessions for math.
Accommodations and Supports
Some students may need special settings or tools to demonstrate what they know and are able to do. While SBA is standardized, there are accommodations and supports available for students who need them. Students with IEP or 504 plans, and students receiving English Learning services will receive accommodations and supports as part of their programs. There are supports available for students who are not enrolled in special programs, including options for anxious students. Please reach out to your teacher, counselor, or principal to discuss support options.
Teachers and Principals: Your classroom teacher is the expert on what your student knows and is able to do. They can provide you with useful information about how to help your student and what is being done to address any areas of concern. Your principal is also available to help with any concerns.
Starting Smarter Guide to Score Reports: Score Reports are sent home a few months after your student takes the assessment. An interactive guide to understanding score reports can be found on the Starting Smarter website.
Understanding Expectations: The Starting Smarter website can also explain the basics of what your students are expected to know and be able to do in each grade level and subject area, and even show example questions.
Practice and Training Tests: Practice Tests give users some idea of what to expect in terms of content and difficulty, while Training Tests let users try out the various tools and item types they will see on the test. Training Tests are organized by grade band (for example, there is one test that covers grade 3-5 material), so do not be alarmed if the questions are much easier or harder than you expected. These tests are informational and are not scored and have no answer key.