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Five Things You Didn't Know About Wisconsin's Smarter Balanced Assessments

Posted by David Moadel

Jun 21, 2015 10:18:00 AM


Wisconsin public K-12 education has the same issues and challenges that face so many large-scale instructional systems, namely, assessments and accountability. To address these challenges, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has utilized various standardized tests throughout the years, from the Wisconsin Pupil Assessment Program in the 1970s and 1980s, to the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRCT) of the 1990s. 

The year 1998 brought a new set of academic content standards to the state of Wisconsin, known as the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards (WMAS). During this decade we also saw the advent of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCEs), which were then superseded in recent years by assessments developed in partnership with the consortium known as Smarter Balanced (SBAC). 

It can be hard to keep up with all of these changes, which is why we've compiled this list of five interesting facts that you may not know about Wisconsin's Smarter Balanced assessments.

1. Cute name, tough assessments.  

2010 was the year Wisconsin adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as well as the year the state joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The resulting Smarter Balanced assessments are known as the Badger Exam. These are highly rigorous, "next-generation" assessments exams built to "accurately measure student progress toward college- and career-readiness."

2. Tough tasks and integrated accommodations.  

Higher standards means more challenging test items, and students can expect to see a mix of multiple-choice questions, short-answer questions, and performance tasks on Wisconsin's Smarter Balanced assessments. 

For students with disabilities and English language learners, accommodations are built into the testing system, ensuring that all students have a fair and accessible testing environment.

3. Common assessments, flexible instruction.  

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has made it clear that their Smarter Balanced tests are an assessment, not a curriculum. 

How educators help students meet the CCSS and state standards is to be determined at the district and school levels, thus allowing for "local decisions about how to 

4. Computer-based assessment a reality in Wisconsin.  


The state has officially said hello to Smarter Balanced tests and good-bye to old-school testing modalities (i.e., pencil-and-paper exams) this year.  In the spring of 2015, Wisconsin schools made the leap into 21st-century assessment methods with the full online implementation of the Badger Exam.

Check out LearnBop’s brand new Technology Enhanced Items (TEI) to see what new computer-based item types used on the SBAC will look like. Teachers can use these new items right now for free!



5. Secure, online reporting system.  

Results of Wisconsin's Smarter Balanced assessments, when available, will be accessible on the internet to parents, students, teachers, and administrators. The reports will indicate individual student progress and achievement in terms of mastery of the CCSS. More information can be accessed on the Badger Exam resources page

We hope this list was informative, and that you learned something you didn't know before. We'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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About the Author


David Moadel is in his third decade working in education.  He has taught, mentored, and inspired students from elementary age through adult.  David has earned his master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education, and is currently a certified teacher in Florida.  David enjoys teaching, writing, and utilizing technology tools to communicate with people with diverse viewpoints across the globe.


Topics: Implementing the Common Core, Resources, State News

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