Technology for Learners


Transition to SBAC: Checklist for School Leaders

Author: Rick Phelan
Published: 07.10.13

Checkbox Districts and schools in California will switch to a new statewide assessment system in the 2014-15 school year. The new assessments will focus on the Common Core State Standards and be administered through a computerized testing system being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Looking toward statewide implementation in 2014-15, districts should be evaluating their needs and establishing action plans to ensure a successful transition.

The areas outlined below offer essential starting points for district and school leadership teams preparing for the shift. Key questions that can help guide development of SBAC action plans are included.

Technical Infrastructure

Do you have sufficient Internet bandwidth to support the SBAC?
The SBAC will be accessible to students through the Internet during a 12-week testing window in Spring 2015. Districts need to ensure they have sufficient bandwidth capacity to support student access. Specific resources have been created to help schools evaluate their broadband capabilities. The SBAC Internet Bandwidth Diagnostic Tool can be helpful in this regard. Leadership teams are encouraged to work with technical staff to understand their district’s technical infrastructure capabilities and make necessary adjustments.

Computer Hardware

Do you have sufficient computers, laptops, and/or tablets?
Districts and schools should inventory their computer hardware and determine which devices can act as student workspaces for the SBAC. If findings reveal deficiencies, additional devices must be acquired. The Tech Readiness Tool and SBAC Readiness Calculator can be very helpful in evaluating school devices and forecasting needs for 2014-15.

CCSS Implementation

What does instruction look like when focused on
the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

The SBAC will measure student understanding of the Common Core State Standards in English-language arts and mathematics. These new standards call for deeper thinking and interaction with content. Districts should plan to provide professional development to guide their staff in making the shift to the new standards. The California Department of Education offers a Common Core Systems Implementation Plan (doc), which may be helpful as districts map out their professional development work and transition to the Common Core State Standards.

Integration of Technology in All Classrooms

How does technology support everyday student learning activities?
Technology is not an “elective” with the Common Core Standards and 21st century learning. At a minimum, students need to know how to carry out computer-based tasks to perform well on the SBAC. Four challenging technology tasks that students needed to perform in the Spring 2013 scientific pilot of the SBAC assessments were:

  • Moving between two or more screens
  • Operating spreadsheets and calculators
  • Manipulating virtual objects such as geometric constructions
  • Editing electronic text

The Fresno County Office of Education has compiled a matrix of Recommended Digital Literacy and Technology Skills (pdf) to support the Common Core State Standards. Guiding the development of these skills, districts would do well to offer personalized technology professional development for staff.

Best practices involve coaching from site mentors and professional learning networks. SCOE offers a variety of services to help develop and support staff learning with technology. See the SCOE website for details. Social media provides additional staff learning opportunities. Explore Twitter and Google Plus professional learning networks for real time and asynchronous learning about educational technology.

Formative Assessments

How is formative assessment guiding classroom instruction?
An important part of the shift to Common Core State Standards with the SBAC involves formative assessment. Different than summative assessments, formative assessments occur as ideas and concepts are developing within a lesson or unit. As such, it provides important feedback for both teachers and students.

  • Teachers obtain information that helps them know how to adjust instruction to advance student learning
  • Students have opportunities to gauge their own learning, ask questions, and improve their understanding

Some Sonoma County districts are adopting specific data tools to implement formative assessment relative to the Common Core State Standards. Two of these companies are Illuminate Education and Intel-Assess. Districts are using resources from these companies to guide formative assessment and their work in professional learning communities.


Attending to these five areas will help school districts make a successful transition from the STAR to SBAC and move from 1997 California State Standards to 2010 Common Core State Standards. Future blog posts will offer more details in these checklist areas.



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