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Statewide Testing: OAKS / Smarter Balanced Assessments

Assessment is how student learning is measured, from quick teacher check-ins and quizzes, to final course exams and state tests.

All public schools in the U.S. are required to systematically assess student learning and report participation and results in school accountability systems. Students in Oregon are assessed periodically to measure proficiency in state and district standards, including completing statewide assessments in certain grades. Statewide assessment results provide important information for students, parents, teachers, schools and districts.

What is the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge & Skills?

Oregon’s main statewide tests, the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge & Skills (OAKS), are administered annually to students in grades 3–8 and 11.

The purpose of these tests is to assess district, school, and individual student progress toward meeting Oregon’s state standards in English language arts (reading and writing), math and science. In some other districts, students in a few grades also complete the OAKS test in social sciences.

In 2019–20, the statewide testing window in which Oregon schools will administer state tests is between Jan. 7 and June 5, 2020.

More information about statewide assessments and school accountability


What are the Smarter Balanced assessments?

Oregon adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, replacing our previous state standards in math and language arts. Since the state’s learning standards in math and language arts have changed, the statewide assessments of students’ learning in these areas also have changed.

In spring 2015, Oregon’s old assessments of math, reading and writing were replaced by new assessments of math and language arts in the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS). The new tests were developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a state-led partnership including Oregon and about 20 other states. These state tests may be referred to as the Smarter Balanced assessments or as OAKS, as they are part of the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

4J parents’ frequently asked questions about Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments (2014–15)

What are the tests like?

The new generation of assessments of math and English language arts are not one-size-fits-all multiple-choice tests. Students’ knowledge and skills are assessed in a variety of ways, including selected-response questions, open-response questions and performance tasks.

The selected-response (or multiple-choice) sections are computer adaptive testing. This means that the computer program adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the test based on the student’s responses. For example, a student who answers a question correctly will next be asked a more challenging question, while a student who answers a question incorrectly will next get an easier question. By adapting to the student’s responses as the test is taking place, the assessment can present questions targeted to the student’s knowledge and ability level.

Check out a practice test (log in as guest, select grade, and choose a practice test (PT) or training test) 

What do these tests mean for students?

As with the previous OAKS tests of reading, writing and math, a student’s scores have no consequences for their grades, credits, or advancement to the next grade, although they may be used to inform appropriate course placement.

To graduate from high school, most students meet Oregon’s graduation requirements in reading, writing and mathematics through the state tests. If they do not meet the requirements in this way, they will need to demonstrate their proficiency in these essential skills through an alternative assessment.

Assessment results provide important information for students, parents, teachers, schools and districts. The Smarter Balanced tests provide more detailed and useful information about each student’s learning and progress toward being ready for college and career than the old OAKS tests did. Parents receive more information about their students’ progress toward being ready for the next school level, college and careers. Teachers, schools and districts receive more useful diagnostic information that can be used to support individual students and improve instructional programs.

Are these new tests harder?

The Common Core State Standards are more rigorous and the tests on those standards may seem more challenging at first. However, the multiple-choice sections are computer adaptive, adjusting the difficulty to each student’s ability level as the test is taking place. The tests also go beyond asking students to fill in multiple choice questions. They give students multiple ways to demonstrate their knowledge and skills and provide a more authentic assessment of what they know and can do.

Because Oregon’s previous state tests set expectations of student learning much lower than most other states and the bar has now been set higher, we anticipate that many students will not yet show proficiency in the standards at their grade level as measured by the new assessments. This is normal and expected, and it will not have negative consequences for students. Over time, students and teachers will continue to make progress in meeting the higher expectations.

How long will they take?

The Smarter Balanced assessments are not time-limited tests, so testing times vary. The length is typically shorter for younger students and longer for older students.

Most students who participated in field testing completed each of the two tests within about 3½ hours total. Some students will finish faster than this. Some students will take longer and can have as much time as they need. Each test is spread out over multiple sessions and days, not taken all at once.

Students take the Smarter Balanced assessments for math and language arts only once in a given year. Previously many students took the state test multiple times each year.

What supports are available to meet students’ individual needs?

In addition to the adaptive nature of much of the test, the Smarter Balanced assessment includes opportunities for supports referred to as universal tools, designated supports and specific accommodations. For every student with an individualized education program, the individual accommodations and supports are identified and listed as part of the annual IEP process. If you have questions, please contact your case manager.

Find out more about supports for students with disabilities and English language learners

Can students opt out of state testing?

Yes. Previously, Oregon school districts could approve exemption requests only on the basis of accommodating a student’s disability or religious beliefs. Since 2016, a parent or adult student may opt out of Oregon’s summative statewide assessments—the Smarter Balanced assessments of mathematics and English language arts and the alternative Oregon Extended Assessment taken by some students with disabilities—for any reason. For information about exemptions from other state tests, the Oregon Department of Education has published a Frequently Asked Questions document.

2019–20 statewide testing notice (español)
2019–20 opt-out form (español)

¿Cómo puedo obtener información en español?
How can I get information in Spanish?

4J_SmarterBalancedPresentation_Feb2015_Thumbnail_Spanish_smallSi necesita más información sobre las exámenes “Smarter Balanced” y otros exámenes estatales, incluyendo las opciones que usted tiene para que su estudiante participe o no participe en los exámenes, por favor llame al 541-790-7707.

Si quiere más información o recursos también puede visitar:
Información por el distrito escolar de Eugene 4J sobre los exámenes estatales “Smarter Balanced”
• Información por el “Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium”
• Información y formulario de exclusión para 2019–20  

If you know someone who would benefit from information or assistance in Spanish, please tell them they can visit this webpage or call 541-790-7707.

4J_SmarterBalancedPresentation_Feb2015_Thumbnail_English_smallParent information nights

The district held several parent information nights about the Common Core State Standards in fall 2014 and about the Smarter Balanced assessments in spring 2015, including a session for Spanish-speaking families and a question-and-answer session with state education leaders.

For information about how Oregon’s state academic standards for mathematics and language arts have changed, see the Common Core State Standards page.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Presentation (English)
Smarter Balanced Assessment Presentation (Spanish) / Información sobre las exámenes estatales “Smarter Balanced”

Learn more

• Answers to 4J parents’ frequently asked questions about the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments

• Common Core State Standards: Learn more

• Smarter Balanced assessment information from the Oregon Department of Education
• Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
• Check out a practice test (log in as guest, select grade, and choose a practice test (PT) or training test)

News: Smarter Balanced tests waive some college placement exams

• Información en español / information in Spanish— ver la información en esta página web y/o llame al 541-790-7707