Chapter 5 Test Administration

5.1 Introduction

This chapter provides a high-level guide to the resources for administering interim assessments and an overview of their contents. The resources consist of a customizable Online Summative Test Administration Manual (TAM) that may be used for standardized interim assessment test administrations (Smarter Balanced, 2018c) and a Member Procedures Manual (Smarter Balanced, 2018f) that includes information for the summative assessments, interim assessments, data warehouse/reporting system, and Digital Library.6 Smarter Balanced is currently working on a customizable Interim Assessment Guide for Administration that members may use to create or update their state-specific interim assessment TAMs. As reported in Chapter 3, the interim assessments provide all of the accessibility resources that are available in the summative assessment. An overview of the 2018–19 interim assessments is available online (Smarter Balanced, 2018h).

Teachers have the option to administer interim assessments in a standardized or non-standardized fashion. For the non-standardized administration, the teacher need not use the Online Summative TAM. The interim assessments are considered student and teacher facing. The student- and teacher-facing designation provides educators the flexibility to access the test questions and their students’ responses to the test questions. Because of this flexibility, the interim assessments are not intended to be used for accountability purposes.

While interim assessments may be administered in non-standardized ways, they are not for public use, display, or distribution. Any use, display, or distribution of the interim assessments that result in access to individuals beyond authorized local education agency staff and students is prohibited. Finally, interim assessment items must not be copied into third-party systems without the permission of Smarter Balanced.

5.2 Member Procedures Manual

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Member Procedures Manual (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, 2018f) is designed to help member leadership prepare for the administration of the Smarter Balanced assessments.

The manual provides a general overview of Smarter Balanced policy topics such as test security, test scheduling, and general administration as it relates to the summative and interim assessments. In addition, this manual provides a high-level overview of member and/or district responsibilities, services provided by Smarter Balanced, and examples of services that members are responsible for securing.

5.3 Online Summative Test Administration Manual

The Online Test Administration Manual (Smarter Balanced, 2018c) for the online summative administration provides information for district/school test coordinators and test administrators regarding policies and procedures for the summative assessment. This document is customizable and is updated annually and made available in September of each test administration year. Specific components of the Online Summative TAM require customization to meet unique needs in each member state. These components include:

  • Help desk information
  • Test expiration dates
  • User roles
  • Test security policy
  • Links to where materials and modules are posted
  • Test security/administration training policy
  • Role-specific checklists

The development of the test administration manuals was guided by the AERA, APA, and NCME Standards (2014). In regard to test administration, the Standards guide test developers to provide directions that are sufficiently clear to allow for standardized implementation in a variety of conditions (see Standard 4.15). In addition, the Standards recommend that test developers provide sufficient detail so that test takers can respond to items and tasks in the manner intended by the test developer (see Standard 4.16).

5.4 Interim Assessments Test Administration Manual

Specific instructions for member states to administer Smarter Balanced interim assessments are developed by each state and are available on the state’s website. Smarter Balanced is currently working on a customizable Interim Assessment Guide for Administration that members may use to create or update their state-specific interim assessment TAMs.

5.5 Administration of the Interim Assessments

The interim assessments can be administered flexibly by teachers to best meet their instructional needs. Examples of this flexibility include:

  • Multiple configurations: Districts/schools may elect to administer both the ICA and IAB during the school year.
  • Multiple administrations: The ICAs and IABs (including those for the same block) may be administered multiple times within an academic year. Districts and schools may determine the schedule for interim assessments or delegate the administration of interim assessments to teachers. The Consortium will not limit the number of times that the ICAs and/or IABs are administered. Members will need to work with service providers to determine contractual expectations related to the number of administrations. Despite this allowance, members should be aware of risks associated with administering these assessments multiple times within an academic year.
    • Item over-exposure: Testing multiple times a year limits the item pool available to students, which will increase the possibility of students encountering the same item several times. Over-exposed items are unlikely to hold their original parameters and may skew performance results. Schools and classrooms may want to limit their testing program to either a judicious use of ICAs or to a coordinated use of IABs to prevent this.
    • Hand scoring: Some of the interim items require hand scoring. Members will have to allocate resources (either vendor resources or local resources) to hand scoring and multiple administrations may add to this effort.
  • Grade levels: The ICA and IAB are composed of items aligned to the CCSS in grades 3–8 and high school. However, the interim assessments are not constrained by grade level. Students may take an off-grade-level interim assessment.

5.6 Standardized vs. Non-Standardized Test Administrations

Interim assessments can serve a variety of educator needs corresponding to standardized or non-standardized administrations. Educators may establish the timeframe, administration policies, and scoring practices for interim assessments to better support the range of possible uses consistent with member education agency policies.

The distinction between standardized and non-standardized administrations is important because the statistical properties of these assessments, as reported in this technical report, apply only to standardized administrations. This does not mean that non-standard administrations are not useful. The examples of non-standard administrations provided below are useful in the classroom. However, the reliability coefficients, norm-referenced, and criterion-referenced interpretations typically attached to test scores require standardized administration.

5.6.1 Standardized Administration

The Smarter Balanced procedures for test administration recognize the responsibilities of test administrators and provide appropriate guidance as recommended by the AERA, APA, and NCME Standards (2014). Test administrators are advised to carefully follow the standardized procedures (Standard 6.1); inform test takers of available accommodations (Standard 6.2); report changes or disruptions to the standardized test administration (Standard 6.3); furnish a comfortable environment with minimal distractions (Standard 6.4); provide appropriate instructions, practice, and other supports (Standard 6.5); and ensure the integrity of the test by eliminating opportunities for test taker malfeasance (Standard 6.6). Test users are responsible for test security at all times (Standard 6.7).

Standardized administration means that a student completes the interim assessment individually, following the procedure for administration used for the summative assessments. Smarter Balanced created and disseminated the Online Summative Test Administration Manual (TAM) to ensure standardized summative test administration procedures and, thus, uniform test administration conditions for all students in Smarter Balanced member states. The TAM is customizable—modifications by members are referred to here as “state TAMs.” Administrations that follow the procedures described in state TAMs may be considered standardized for purposes of interpreting the statistical properties of the tests, as presented in this technical report.

When administering interim tests under standardized conditions, guidelines in the Smarter Balanced TAM or state TAM should be followed. These include:

  • strict adherence to the directions in the TAM;
  • ensuring appropriate access to universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations; and
  • ensuring a proper test environment (e.g., student seating, providing a quiet environment).

Results from a standardized administration can be interpreted consistently and used as a gauge of student learning that is comparable across students. In this approach, the interim assessment is used to assess learning after a period of instruction, and results reflect an individual student’s mastery of the concepts assessed. Standardized tests can be used as part of an assessment of learning and an assessment for learning.

The interim assessment blocks were designed to be completed within one class period. The ICAs are similarly designed in parts to be completed in class periods. Table 5.1 presents the estimated testing times for a standardized administration of the ICA as it follows a format similar to the summative assessment. The estimated times for each session of each content area test provides sufficient time for students to attempt all items. See Chapter 6 in the summative technical report for more detailed guidelines and information about actual testing times for each part (PT and CAT) of the summative assessment.

Content Area Grades Non-PT PT Total
ELA/Literacy 3–5 1:30 2:00 3:30
6–8 1:30 2:00 3:30
HS 2:00 2:00 4:00
Mathematics 3–5 1:30 1:00 2:30
6–8 2:00 1:00 3:00
HS 2:00 1:30 3:30

5.6.2 Non-Standardized Administration

Non-standardized administration refers to any administration that is not consistent with the administration requirements of the summative assessment. Some examples of non-standardized administration might include (but are not limited to):

  • Administering tests while students answer cooperatively in pairs, in small groups, or as a whole class. Teachers may elect to include some discussion time between test items and may have students hand score items as needed.
  • Providing interim assessment resources other than those approved in the Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines.

Non-standardized administrations can serve essential goals in teaching and formative assessment. But it is important to recognize that due to their non-standard nature, the resulting test scores may not have the same meaning and reliability as those from standardized administrations.

5.7 Practice Tests and Training Tests

Practice and Training Tests are available in grades 3–8 and high school. Each Smarter Balanced state and territory hosts the practice and training tests on their own test delivery system. This allows students and educators to become familiar with how the tests are presented on their test delivery systems.

5.8 Universal Tools, Designated Supports, and Accommodations

All interim assessments are fully accessible and feature all accessibility resources described in the Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines (Smarter Balanced, 2018b). To enhance student access to the assessment content during test administration, Smarter Balanced developed a conceptual model that includes universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations. These are detailed in the Guidelines (Smarter Balanced 2018b) and are described briefly in the following paragraphs.

Universal tools are access features of the Smarter Balanced assessment that are either provided as digitally delivered components of the test delivery system (embedded) or provided separately from the test delivery system (non-embedded). Universal tools are available to all students based on student preference and selection. Embedded universal tools include (but are not limited to) features such as an English glossary that provides grade- and context-appropriate definitions of specific construct-irrelevant terms, a digital calculator that the student may access by clicking on a calculator button, and a digital notepad. Non-embedded universal tools include (but are not limited to) provision of an English dictionary for the full-write portion of the ELA/literacy performance task and the provision of physical scratch paper for all content area tests.

Designated supports for the Smarter Balanced assessments are embedded and non-embedded features that are available for use by any student for whom the need has been indicated by an educator or team of educators (along with the student and his/her parent/guardian) familiar with the student’s instructional needs. Embedded designated supports include (but are not limited to) features such as color contrast that enables students to adjust background or font color, translated test directions, translated glossaries, and stacked Spanish translations for mathematics items. Non-embedded designated supports include (but are not limited to) provision of color overlays, color contrast that allows printing test content with different colors, use of magnification devices, and use of noise buffers.

Accommodations are changes in procedures or materials that increase equitable access during the Smarter Balanced assessments. Students receiving accommodations must have a need for those accommodations documented in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 accommodation plan. Like universal tools and designated supports, accommodations may be either embedded or non-embedded. Examples of embedded accommodations include (but are not limited to) closed captioning and test content translated into American Sign Language (ASL) video. Non-embedded accommodations include (but are not limited to) use of an abacus, print on demand, and use of an external communication device (speech-to-text).

Universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations all yield valid scores that count as participation in assessments that meet the requirements of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) when used in a manner consistent with the Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines (Smarter Balanced, 2018b). A complete summary of all embedded and non-embedded universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations is included in these guidelines. The guidelines are updated each year.

  1. The Digital Library was retired May 2020. Tools for Teachers was launched in June 2020 and is the new home for formative assessment instructional supports.