The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed with the intent to ensure every student would be career or college ready by the time he or she graduates high school. But how is that monitored? How can each district, each school, each teacher guarantee every student is learning what they think they are learning? This is where assessment comes in. Through asking the students a series of questions of varying content and depth of knowledge levels, educators can gather data to determine if the students are not only learning, but mastering, the standards.
Most test creators have clear blueprints and guidelines to define how their tests should look. This allows those writing questions for assessments to ensure they align with the overall goal of the assessment and are appropriate for students. In the creation of their blueprints, the Smarter Balanced testing consortium took that notion of assessment one step further when they clearly defined how their assessments would be created.
Within the Smarter Balanced blueprints, content specifications include categories, claims, and targets are used to focus creation of the assessment system; but, it is the claims that pinpoint that focus the most. According to the Smarter Balanced Content Specification guidelines, “these claims will serve as the basis for the Consortium’s system of summative and interim assessments and its formative assessment support for teachers.”
Claims are the broad statements of the assessment system‘s learning outcomes, each of which requires evidence that articulates the types of data/observations that will support interpretations of competence
towards achievement of the claims. Smarter Balanced consortium indicates a claim is a statement of what the students know and can do based on the provided evidence, which is the content claim. With a claim, test creators are saying that a student has mastered a particular topic because of the evidence he or she produces.
So how do these students produce this evidence and how are educators assured it is adequately measuring the content? Smarter Balanced answers that question with targets. These assessment targets provide the educator with a description of the evidence required of students to score proficient on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Targets provide explicit detail about the content claims including the different Depth of Knowledge levels that should be used to create assessment questions for each claim. According to Smarter Balanced, “The targets are intended to support the development of high-quality items and tasks that contribute evidence to the claims.”
Both claims and targets help test creators focus the content of the assessment to ensure students are being assessed with high-quality, rigorous questions. When this occurs, it is the best way to make certain students are learning what teachers think they are learning and that students are mastering the necessary skills to be successful in college or career futures.