New student assessments to set new baseline for Hawaii


Smarter Balanced asessments in English language arts and math are aligned to higher expectations of the Hawaii Common Core standards. Results will help educators address student needs and ensure they are on track to graduate prepared for college and careers.

HONOLULU –Beginning this month, Hawaii public school students in grades 3-8 and 11 will start taking a new state assessment that better informs educators on each child’s progress toward being ready for college and careers.

Most schools have between March 10 and the end of the school year, June 3, to administer the online Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math. The testing window closes June 25 for multitrack schools.

“We are anxious and excited to launch a more dynamic and engaging annual assessment that will help show us where students are on their path to success in careers and college, and how we can best help them get to where they need to be,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We have been making sure that schools have the technical and educational support to be ready for this moment. Thank you to all of the educators, parents, students and community members from Hawaii and across the country who contributed in the groundbreaking assessment development work.”

The Smarter Balanced assessments, which replace the Hawaii State Assessments in reading and math, are a major component of the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) and Board of Education’s Strategic Plan. In an unprecedented effort, the DOE helped lead a multistate consortium to create assessments aligned to the Hawaii Common Core standards –a set of clear and consistent learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade to graduate prepared for colleges and careers. 

The consortium worked with K-12 teachers and higher education faculty from across member states, as well as national experts, to develop, review and test over 20,000 assessment questions and performance tasks, and to build a digital library of instructional and professional development resources for teachers. 

For the first time, educators and parents will be able to compare the performance of students in multiple states based on common standards and assessments. The Smarter Balanced assessment system allows teachers to administer interim assessments, or frequent academic checks, throughout the year to identify and address student needs.

Students taking the assessment will face more complex problems that challenge them to support their answers with explanations and evidence. The digital platform features multimedia items and lets students mark questions for review, take notes on a digital notepad, use calculators and other tools in certain sections, and also pause the test.

Smarter Balanced assessments have three components: A computer-adaptive test, a classroom activity, and a performance task that asks students to apply their knowledge to solve a real-world problem.

Hawaii schools have taken a number of steps to prepare for the transition. Last year, students took a “bridge”assessment that included items aligned with new standards (Common Core) and former standards (Hawaii Content Performance Standards). Additionally, students at nearly 100 schools participated in a Smarter Balanced field test, a sort of practice run to ensure questions are valid, reliable and fair to all children. Schools also have had the opportunity to conduct practice and training tests this school year. Earlier this year, the DOE conducted statewide training for school and district staff on topics ranging from test administration and coordination to interpreting student results.

The change to a new assessment and standards is expected to result in lower proficiency scores in Hawaii and other states. A drop in scores does not mean students are performing any worse –it simply means a new student achievement baseline is being established based on higher standards and a different assessment.

Student reports for the Smarter Balanced assessments are anticipated to be available two weeks after completion of the assessment. 

Meanwhile, last month, the U.S. Department of Education granted Hawaii a one-year waiver to allow Hawaiian Language Immersion Program (HLIP) students to take a specialized assessment this school year in lieu of the Smarter Balanced assessments. This means HLIP students in grades 3 and 4 will take a Hawaiian language arts and math field test the DOE developed with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

​​State AssessmentRead more about how the Smarter Balanced assessments will help educators and parents support student learning.


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