Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) in mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) are aligned to the Hawaii Common Core Standards, and designed to measure whether students are "on track" for readiness in college and/or career. SBA replaced the Hawaii State Assessment in math and reading. These are mandatory assessments given to students in grades 3-8 and 11.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A better test

Hawaii is among 18 member states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands) 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 took the summative Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) for the first time in spring 2015. 

Families received a report in the fall prior to the the public release of school- and state-level results on Sept. 15. 

  • Click here​ to learn more about the SBA Family Report 
  • Click here​ to see the SBA test results for School Year 2014-2015​

For students, SBA offers:

  • More complex problems and challenge them to 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.
  • The opportunity to be placed in credit-bearing courses at a number of colleges and universities​, including the University of Hawaii system of colleges. See this flyer​ for more information.

SPECIAL NEEDS: Students with significant cognitive disabilities take the HSA-Alternative exams in ELA/Literacy, Mathematics and Science. Learn more.

HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE: The Department is working with the University of Hawaii-Manoa to further the development, field testing, and implementation of assessments in the Hawaiian language that are aligned to the standards and measure progress toward preparing students for success in college, career and community. In spring 2015, the Department ran a field test of the Hawaiian language state assessment for language arts and math for students in grades 3 and 4 enrolled in Ka Papahana Kaiapuni (immersion​) schools. The Department requested a "double testing" waiver from the U.S. Department of Education so that those students in the field test will not have to also take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. That was approved​ for one year.​

SBA is an assessments system:

  • It allows teachers to administer formative assessments — small, frequent academic checks — throughout the year. Teachers are able to print reports and discuss students' real-time performan​ce and progress with parents.
  • For the Smarter Balanced summative assessments conducted in the spring, teachers have access to student scores within two weeks of completion of the assessment, allowing them to adjust instruction in the final weeks of the school year. Reports will also be provided to educators who will be teaching students the following school year to help inform their instruction. Parents receive a paper report on the summative assessments in the fall.​​

Instructional shifts

SBA replaces the former Hawaii State Reading and Mathematics Assessments (HSA). (The HSA for Science will continue to be administered.) SBA measures 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.

To explain the instructional shifts in our classrooms, and how those are reflected in the new assessments, take a look at the following guides, and view our parent letter from the Superintendent.

English Language Arts English Language Arts English Language Arts
Mathematics Mathematics Mathematics

Three components

There are three SBA summative assessment components: 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 task items can be scored by the computer; most will be manually​​ scored.

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. For more detailed information, please see these Smarter Balanced FAQs​.

ONLINE PRACTICE TESTS: 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 at our AlohaHSAP portal​​​. 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.​​


The HSAs in Reading and Mathematics were administered to students in grades 3-8 and 10 up to 2013. A "bridge" assessment (part-HSA, part-SBA) was administered in 2014. The SBA in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics were administered in 2015.

The HSA in Science is administered to students in grades 4 and 8. High school students who are enrolled in Biology I and take the related End-of-Course exam also have their scores reported as part of statewide science assessment scores.

Scores, reported at the end of each school year, are released to the public to track the achievement of students, schools, complex areas and the state, and to support instructional program improvement efforts. Individual student data is not released.

TEST RESULTS: Click for a spreadsheet of statewide and school-level results for the following school years: 

​Family resources

Families are key in student preparedness. New standards (Hawaii Common Core) and assessments (Smarter Balanced) are creating shifts in the classroom that involve more dynamic, evidence- and technology-based learning than what classes used to look like a generation ago. We encourage families to dig in to these resources to help students be ready for learning — and demonstrating learning.​

Contact Information

Tom Saka

Phone: 808-586-3283


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