Assessment Consortium Releases Math Content Specifications

By Catherine Gewertz — August 30, 2011 2 min read
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The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium has released its content specifications in math. With that move, the group has now issued drafts of what it believes are the types of evidence of learning that students will have to demonstrate to show they’ve mastered the common standards in math and English/language arts.

This release is one in a series of documents that have come out this month that begin to fill in the space between common standards and the tests being designed for them. (See my story on this.) They’re being released by two federally funded groups of states that are designing tests for the common standards. SMARTER Balanced is one of those groups. The other is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

SMARTER Balanced’s math content specifications rest on four statements that describe the end goals of the assessment system. For each of those claims, the consortium specifies the types of evidence that would show that students have met those goals. Here are the claims:

• #1: Students can explain and apply mathematical concepts and carry out mathematical procedures with precision and fluency.
• #2: Students can frame and solve a range of complex problems in pure and applied mathematics.
• #3: Students can clearly and precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning and to critique the reasoning of others.
• #4: Students can analyze complex, real-world scenarios and can use mathematical models to interpret and solve problems.

For a taste of how the claims and evidence lay out, take a look at page 19 of the content specifications. It shows one of the claims (in this case, claim #1), details the different ways evidence of mastery might be collected ("... This content can be assessed using a combination of selected response and short constructed response items, but may also be evaluated at a deeper level within long constructed response items and performance tasks...”), lists types of evidence of learning (such as this: “factors & multiples: Determine factors and multiples of whole numbers (1-100); Identify prime and composite numbers”), and specifies which standards are addressed by those activities.

PARCC’s draft content frameworks in math and English/language arts were released earlier this month, and are posted for public comment through Aug. 31. SMARTER Balanced released draft content specifications in English/language arts, and those were open for a first round of public comment until yesterday. They will be revised, and a new draft will be issued for comment on Sept. 19. That’s the day that comment on the first-round math content specifications is due as well. The math document will subsequently be revised and reissued for more comment. Finals in literacy are due to be issued Oct. 3, and in math on Oct. 24.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.