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Smarter Balanced Assessment Development and Design

Along with creating an innovative assessment, Smarter Balanced is committed to an unprecedented level of transparency, so that anyone who is interested can see exactly how the test is made.

On this page we provide the following materials used in the process of developing the Smarter Balanced assessment system.

The Smarter Balanced summative test blueprints describe the content of the English language arts/literacy and math summative assessments for grades 3-8 and high school—and how that content will be assessed. The test blueprints include critical information about the number of questions, score points, and depth of knowledge for items associated with each assessment target. They will continue to guide the development of questions and performance tasks, score reporting, and ongoing research.

Smarter Balanced has developed content specifications in English language arts/literacy and math to ensure that the assessments cover the range of knowledge and skills in the Common Core State Standards. The content specifications  serve as the basis for the Smarter Balanced system of summative and interim assessments and formative assessment support for teachers.

Item and performance task specifications provide guidance on how to translate the Smarter Balanced Content Specifications into actual assessment items. In addition, guidelines for bias and sensitivity, accessibility and accommodations, and style help item developers and reviewers ensure consistency and fairness across the item bank.

English Language Arts/Literacy Item Specifications

Mathematics Item Specifications

What are Accessibility Resources?
  • A set of universal tools—such as a digital notepad and scratch paper—are available to all students.
  • Designated supports—like a translated pop-up glossary—are available to students for whom a need has been identified by school personnel familiar with each student's needs and testing resources.
  • Accommodations are available to students with a documented need noted in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan. Accommodations include Braille and closed captioning, among others.
  • The Individual Student Assessment Accessibility Profile (ISAAP) tool and training module support educators in selecting accessibility resources that match student access needs.
Additional information on design and development may be found at: