Smarter Balanced Assessments

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium logoMaine is one of 26 states participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is developing sophisticated assessments capable of measuring the higher-order thinking in the new standards in English language arts/literacy and math, including both the content and the concept and skills embedded in them. Their computer-adaptive design is more engaging and enables more accurate assessment of student learning. If a student is struggling with questions, the test automatically moves to easier questions, pinpointing what standards the student has mastered and which they have not. If the student is getting all the questions right, the test adjusts upward.

By leveraging resources with 25 other states, Maine will save considerably on its assessments and more importantly, develop higher quality assessments and share considerable resources for effective teaching and learning.

The tests will first be administered in the spring of 2015. A comprehensive practice test was made available in June 2013 for students, teachers, parents and others to try out and begin to understand the new format and the kinds of knowledge and skills the new assessment and standards can measure.

What will happen to Maine’s current assessments?

  • The last NECAP exam for grades 3-8 was administered in fall 2013 with limited adjustments to the math expectations.
  • The last Maine High School Assessment/SAT that counts for federal accountability purposes was May 2014. High school students planning to apply to college should still take the SAT, and the College Board will continue to provide it. Maine DOE is still reviewing finances and logistics and has not yet determined what the state involvement will be in the SAT administration for high school juniors.
  • The Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) for science, in grades 5 and 8, and the Maine High School Assessment for science in grade 11, will continue to be used. They are administered in the spring of each year.
  • The Personalized Alternative Assessment Portfolio (PAAP) – the test for the most cognitively disabled students – will be replaced in the 2014-15 school year by an assessment being developed by the National Center and State Collaborative, one of two federally supported consortia developing an alternate assessment aligned with the Common Core State Standards that will test students' knowledge of math and English language arts. Maine is a partner in the collaborative. PAAP will continue to assess science until alternate science standards aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards are developed.

Format and Technology

The Smarter Balanced assessments will measure student progress toward meeting the Common Core State Standards at each of the tested learning levels over the course of an entire school year. Questions will take on a variety of forms: essays, multiple-choice, mini-projects, specified performance tasks and more.

The Smarter Balanced assessment tools will capitalize on the power of technology to provide dynamic tests that can be scored quickly.

Students will take the tests using computers, and the assessments will be computer-adaptive -- meaning the difficulty level of questions will change based on students' success in answering the preceding questions. The computer-based nature of the tests will allow for fast scoring and delivery of results. The sooner educators know their students' results, the sooner they can begin using that knowledge to adapt instruction and improve student achievement.

Summative Assessment

The Smarter Balanced assessments will satisfy the testing requirements of federal education laws. Schools will administer the assessments for those purposes in the last 12 weeks of the school year.

Formative Assessment

In addition to helping schools and states meet federal testing requirements, the Smarter Balanced assessment system will offer a range of optional formative assessment tools. These are assessments that educators can use throughout the year to test students' developing understanding of concepts and their progress toward meeting learning standards.

Educators can use these valuable data to tailor instruction to the needs of individual students.


Rachelle Tome
Chief Academic Officer