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Smarter Balanced Assessment

State Assessment (Smarter Balanced)

The Smarter Balanced assessments in mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA), which will be implemented in spring 2015, are aligned to the new Hawaii Common Core Standards. Smarter Balanced replaces the Hawaii State Assessment in Math and Reading.

A Better Test

Hawaii is among 24 states leading a Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that developed a new assessment system to measure whether students are meeting the Common Core for Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA), and are on-track for college and career readiness. Hawaii students in grades 3-8 and 11 will take the Smarter Balanced Assessments for the first time in spring 2015.

Smarter Balanced assessments provide students:

  • More time to read text passages, solve more complex problems and support their answers with explanations and evidence.
  • The ability to mark test items for review, take notes on a digital notepad, use calculators and other tools in certain sections, and also pause the test.

Smarter Balanced vs. Hawaii State Assessment (HSA)

The new assessments will replace the former Hawaii State Assessments (HSA). They will measure not only what students know, but also how well they can apply their knowledge in real-world situations. It’s expected that the change to the new test and standards will result in a drop in scores as compared with previous years. Lower test scores do not mean students are performing any worse — because these are newer, higher expectations for student learning. Results from this year are a new starting point. In other words, it is reasonable to compare 2015 scores with next year’s scores (same assessment), but not with last year’s HSA scores.

Three Components

There are three assessment components to Smarter Balanced: A computer-adaptive test, a classroom activity, and a performance task.

  1. Computer Adaptive Test: An online adaptive test that provides an individualized assessment for each student.
  2. Classroom Activity: A group exercise, usually lasting about 30 minutes, meant to provide context and familiarize all students with an upcoming Performance Task.
  3. Performance Task: Tasks that challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to respond to real-world problems. They can best be described as collections of questions and activities that are coherently connected to a single theme or scenario. They will be used to better measure capacities such as depth of understanding, research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with selected- or constructed-response items. Some performance tasks can be scored automatically; many will be hand-scored by professionally trained readers.

On average, the assessments are expected to last a combined 7 hours for grades 3-5; 7:30 hours for grades 6-8, and 8:30 hours for grade 11. The test is not timed; students will be given appropriate time to answer all questions. The tests can be administered over several days.


Students, teachers and parents nationwide have access to sets of assessment questions aligned to the Common Core that can be used for professional development and discussions with policymakers and other interested stakeholders. The practice tests are available through the Smarter Balanced website: http://sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test/ . These are only a preview, and do not encompass the full range of content that students may encounter. Also, they are presented in a “fixed form” (i.e., not computer adaptive) and users will not receive reports or scores.

Click here for a visual guide to the online practice test.