Supporting Remote Teaching and Learning

Smarter Balanced assessment resources are designed to support teaching and learning in flexible ways. Teachers are encouraged to use the interim assessments and formative resources as tools to plan their instruction and determine how to help their students learn more.

Right now, more than ever, teachers need access to high-quality, accessible, and flexible resources to support their students while teaching remotely and while their students are learning outside of the traditional classroom. This site provides suggestions regarding how teachers may use Smarter Balanced resources during this unprecedented time.

Information on this site does not:

  • Serve as legal or policy guidance for schools, districts, or other entities
  • Replace state policy, guidance, or procedures

This site will be updated frequently with more resources and suggestions.

This page contains guidance on:

Planning and Designing Your Approach to Remote Teaching and Learning

As described in the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessment Overview, interim assessments (and interim assessment items) can meet a variety of educator needs in remote learning situations.

As part of the formative assessment process, interim assessments can be used to elicit information about what students know and this information can be used to inform instruction.

Modes of Remote Teaching

The assessment resources available for synchronous and asynchronous instruction are the same. However, during the synchronous instruction model, teachers may display interim items as part of their formative process during real-time instruction. In contrast, teachers using the asynchronous/indirect instructional model do not interact with students in real time and therefore assessment items and activities are provided “outside” and “between” instruction.

Synchronous Teaching

Meeting with students in real time over web conferences or online learning platforms

For synchronous teaching, Smarter Balanced resources can help teachers:

Asynchronous Teaching

Posting lessons on a portal, providing packets of activities, following up with phone calls and emails

For asynchronous teaching, Smarter Balanced resources can help teachers:

Smarter Balanced Resources

2020 Back to School Assessment Playbook

The Back to School Assessment Playbook offers educators in Smarter Balanced member states guidance and recommendations regarding how they can use the new Tools for Teachers website, as well as nearly 150 interim assessment blocks, to accelerate learning this coming school year.

For Educator Use

For Educator and Public Use

Administering Interim Assessments

Item Viewer

Some states make available to educators an interim assessment item viewer. If available, a teacher may access an interim item and display the item during instruction within the platform.

Interim Assessments

Consortium members may configure their test platforms to allow teachers to administer interim tests remotely and students to take interim tests remotely.

Similarities in the assessment process between remote and in-person instruction

  • Know the purpose for administering the interim assessment (or test items).  For example, what new information do you need about your students’ skills?
  • Choose which interim assessment will provide the best information or whether presenting an interim item during instruction will best meet your needs.
  • Match the conditions with the purpose including:
    • the student’s environment (access to external information),
    • accessibility resources, and
    • timing based on when instruction was provided.
  • Use the results to inform next steps in instruction.
  • Follow all test security protocols outlined in the first two “Don’t” bullet points on the next tab prior to interim testing.

Understanding and Using Interims

Understanding the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments

Interims are Key to Setting Learning Goals

Use Interim Assessments to Move Students Forward

Remote Learning and the Formative Assessment Process

The nature of remote learning is that there is more student autonomy—it is likely that students will participate with more independence when they are not located in the same space and/or instructional time as their teachers.

Distance learning relies on the formative assessment process for success because it helps teachers and students identify the gaps between where students are and where they need to be in order to determine next steps.

When students are engaged in remote learning, teachers need ways to identify, monitor, and support student learning at various times while in separate spaces. Using the formative assessment process, teachers and students can monitor and adjust learning together. The formative assessment process is essential for supporting effective distance learning.

The formative assessment process is used by teachers and students to provide actionable feedback to the learner, which is then used to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve students’ attainment of curricular learning targets/goals. The formative assessment process has four attributes:

  1. Clarify: determine what students will learn and how they will know they have learned it;
  2. Elicit: generate evidence of student learning, such as asking questions;
  3. Interpret: review evidence to determine students’ progress towards the learning goal(s); and
  4. Act: take instructional next steps to move students from where they are to where they need to be, such as re-teaching using a different mode.

Formative Assessment Examples in Synchronous and Asynchronous Modes


Synchronous: Students restate the learning goal and success criteria in their own words verbally, in comments, or during a think-pair-share in a web-conference breakout room.

Asynchronous: Students restate the learning goal and success criteria on a chat board or in an online/offline journal.


Synchronous: In-the-moment evaluation of student statements and work.

Asynchronous: Off-line review of group or individual student work by evaluating, scoring, or otherwise making sense of where students are relative to the learning goal.


Synchronous: In-the-moment questions with students responding verbally, using polling tools, or in a chat room. Items could be from Smarter Balanced Interims or the Sample Items Website.

Asynchronous: Posted discussion questions, online quizzes, tasks, or prompts for students to complete. Work is recorded and submitted to the teacher digitally.


Synchronous: Real-time teacher feedback or peer feedback that prompts adjustments or real-time modelling to re-teach a concept or skill or progress to a new concept or skill.

Asynchronous: Off-line feedback (comments, videos, email) or follow up tools to support re-teaching a concept or skill or progressing to a new concept or skill. Assignment of additional tasks or work to support student progress.

Smarter Balanced Supports for Formative Assessment

The following strategies can facilitate the use of the formative assessment process in distance learning.




Synchronous & Asynchronous
Synchronous & Asynchronous

Accessibility Considerations

Accessibility is one of the foundational principles of the Smarter Balanced assessment system, as it is a primary component of equity and a natural outcome of a system based on Universal Design principles. For synchronous and asynchronous remote instruction, teachers can use strategies similar to those used in traditional classrooms to provide access to assessment opportunities for all of their students. 

To this end, teachers may use the following guide—Accessibility Strategies for Remote Teaching and Learning—to support students and families with diverse accessibility needs and preferences.

Note: This guide does not replace federal or state law or guidance, nor is it intended to contradict any information in a student's IEP or 504 plan.

Download the Guide (PDF)

Formative Assessment in Remote Learning for English Learners

The Formative Assessment in Remote Learning for English Learners Webinar Series focuses on formative assessment practices with multilingual learners in remote learning environments. These sessions are provided by Stanford Graduate School of Education’s Understanding Language Initiative.

The two webinar sessions focused on formative assessment practices with multilingual learners in remote learning environments, including: 

  • A holistic approach to remote learning and reopening schools, 
  • Formative assessment process as a part of acceleration, and  
  • Examples of classroom activities that can support the simultaneous development of content and language. 

Questions and Answers

Planning Tests

Administering Tests

Printing and Sharing

External Resources

The following organizations offer resources and information that may be useful for supporting students, teachers, and families.