California is providing a range of new resources to teachers, parents and the public to make Smarter Balanced tests and student scores easier to understand — and more useful in actually guiding instruction.

The State Board of Education on Wednesday will discuss new parent and teacher resources that are available to help understand the tests, as well as improvements to the public website, where this year’s scores are expected to be posted by the end of August.

The Smarter Balanced tests – based on  Common Core math and English language arts standards – are part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP system.  Over three million students took the tests in the spring. The state is also developing new science tests and English learner assessments as part of CAASPP, including an alternative science test for severely disabled students, which the board will weigh in on Wednesday.

The state launched a new website last month at, which gives parents detailed information about their children’s Smarter Balanced score reports on tests that were administered in the spring. The reports are being mailed to families this summer. Parents can look up their child’s grade level, subject area tested and score range to find out what was expected, what the scores mean and to review sample test items.

In addition, the site includes links to resources such as parent guides and “parent roadmaps” created by the Council of the Great City Schools, which explain the Common Core standards tested at each grade level. For example, a 3rd-grade roadmap explains how the language arts standards are changing.

“Students will continue reading and writing,” according to the guide. “But in addition to stories and literature, they will read more texts that provide facts and background knowledge in areas including science and social studies. They will read more challenging texts and be asked more questions that will require them to refer back to what they have read. There will also be an increased emphasis on building a strong vocabulary so that students can read and understand challenging material.”

The state Department of Education also posted long-anticipated Smarter Balanced teachers’ guides on its website at the beginning of this month. These explain how the tests and scores correspond to Common Core standards and how they correspond to what educators are teaching in their classrooms.

Teachers can also access instructional resources, including lesson plans, through the state’s Smarter Balanced Digital Library. And the state is also planning to make nearly 30 new interim assessments available during the next school year to help teachers gauge how well their students are progressing.

To help the public see progress between last year’s tests and this year’s assessments, the state is redesigning its CAASPP public reporting website to allow viewers to see results for 2014-15 and 2015-16 side-by-side for schools, districts, counties and the state. Details for subgroups such as English learners will also be available in this format.

It will be possible to view up to three aggregate reports for a single year. However, the state advises viewers to use caution in comparing schools or districts, unless they have similar student demographics.

The state expects to pay more than $310 million in costs associated with the tests between July 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2018. These include:

  • $240 million for Educational Testing Service, or ETS, contracts;
  • $60 million for K-12 High Speed Network grants, professional development and technical assistance;
  • $8 million for Smarter Balanced Consortium-managed services through UCLA;
  • $774,117 for an independent evaluation of the CAASPP system by the Human Resources Research Association; and
  • $1.5 million for CAASPP support activities through the Sacramento County Office of Education.

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