Connecticut Interim Assessments: Smarter Balanced and Next Generation Science


Logo of Interim Assessments

What are Interim Assessments?  

The interims are a useful way to check student progress and to gather information about learning that can alter the instruction provided. Interims offer flexibility, and can be used for professional development or in class with students in a variety of ways.

Interim assessments are just one part of a comprehensive assessment system.

Image of Smarter Balanced System that contains interims, summative and formative assessments.

Interim assessments are free and more importantly, optional. The Connecticut State Department of Education is not dictating if or when you use the interims, but cautions you to keep in mind the purposes and appropriate uses of these assessments.

For more information on various uses of assessments, visit our
Sensible Assessment page.  

The Interim Assessments: Smarter Balanced and Next Generation Science Standards guide provides more information on interim assessments.  

Why are the Interim Assessments valuable?  

Interim assessments provide teachers with an additional tool that measures students’ mastery of specific content and skills aligned to the Connecticut Core Standards for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

While there is no better place to learn these skills than being part of a dynamic and interactive classroom setting, teachers can use interim assessments throughout the year to inform instruction by measuring student progress, identifying areas of strength and weakness, and assessing the skills of incoming students.

How are the Interim Assessments administered?  

Interim assessments are administered on a computer using the same test delivery system as the online summative assessments. The scope, sequence, number, and timing of the interim assessments are determined at the district level. A teacher may administer an interim assessment that is above or below the student’s current grade level. An above grade-level assessment might be used by a teacher to assess students who are receiving instruction with curriculum aligned to above grade-level standards. A below grade-level assessment might be used by a teacher who wants to assess students who are struggling with grade-level content to identify areas of weakness in prior learning.

More information on interim Test Administration can be found in this guide.  

What is the format of the Interim Assessments?  

Image of three types of interims: ICA, IAB and focus blocks.

There are three different types of Smarter Balanced ELA and Mathematics Interim Assessments. The Interim Comprehensive Assessments (ICA) are similar to the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments in length, content, and format. Each content area ICA has two parts: a grade-level ICA and an ICA Performance Task.


The second type of interim offered for ELA and math are the Interim Assessment Blocks (IABs), which are shorter assessments that concentrate on smaller sets of related concepts.

The Smarter Balanced ELA and Mathematics Interim Assessments also offer Focused IABs, which are blocks designed to focus on discrete bundles of content to give teachers a better understanding of students’ knowledge and academic performance and provide teachers with precise next steps for instruction. The Focused IABs measure only 1-3 targets and contain 8-15 items. Some preexisting IABs have been reclassified as Focused IABs; however, their content has not changed.

All interim assessments for ELA, math, and science are fixed-form tests. This is an important point to keep in mind if students are taking the both the Interim Comprehensive Assessment and Interim Assessment Blocks within a grade because they will see many of the same items across both test. We caution against multiple administrations of the same interim to the same students. The drawback to fixed-form tests is that there is only one test available. If a teacher wants to use a single interim as a pre- and post-test, the students would be administered the exact same items twice. Item overexposure becomes an issue. Overexposure to stimuli and items may influence student performance requiring careful interpretation of data analysis. There is no overlap of items within the ELA and math IABs and the ELA and math Focused IABs.

For more information, watch the Smarter Balance ELA and Mathematics Interim Assessment video.

There are 54 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Interim Assessment blocks representing Earth/Space, Life and Physical Science. Each block measures a subset of science practices, disciplinary core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts. Each NGSS Interim Assessment Block contains one item cluster that is aligned to a phenomena-based scenario, a single NGSS performance expectation, and several item interactions. NGSS Interim Assessments span across three grade bands: Elementary School (Grades 3-5), Middle School (Grades 6-8), and High School (Grade 11).

Similar to the Smarter Balanced Focused Blocks, the NGSS Interim Assessments are designed to focus on discrete clusters of content aligned to the NGSS performance expectations that give teachers a better understanding of students’ knowledge and academic performance and next steps for instruction.

For more information about the NGSS Interim Assessments, navigate to 
The NGSS Interim Assessment Quick Guide.


More information on interim Test Format can be found in this guide.  

How are the Interim Assessments Scored?  

The Smarter Balanced English Language Arts and Mathematics ICAs and the IABs contain test items that are scored by the test delivery engine. There are also short-text, constructed-response and full-write items, both of which are now scored using automated scoring. If educators want to review annotated scored responses, an Exemplar Set and Training Guide are available in the Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE) and in the Centralized Reporting System for each open-ended item.

For more information on the use of automated scoring on the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments, read Frequently Asked Questions Smarter Balanced Interim Automated Scoring 2020-2021 Academic Year.

All items in all NGSS Interim Assessments are scored by the test delivery engine.  Raw scores and percent correct for the item cluster in an assessment are reported. No scale scores or achievement levels will be made available for these assessments.  


More information on interim Scoring and Reporting can be found in this guide.  

Where are the Interim Assessments Located?  
All interim assessments are available in the Connecticut Comprehensive Assessment Portal. Select the Smarter Balanced Assessments or the NGSS Assessments card to access the interims. Both systems allow access to all available interim assessments.

Image of main page of CT Comprehensive Assessment System

CT Comprehensive Assessment Portal home page

Click to access the Connecticut Comprehensive Assessment Portal.


Image of cards on CT Comprehensive Portal

Test Administration card 

Interims can be viewed by educators in the Assessment Viewing Application (AVA), a secure online system that allows authorized users to view the Next Generation Science and Smarter Balanced Interim Assessment Blocks, including the Focused IABs, and the Interim Comprehensive Assessments for administrative or instructional purposes. While AVA does not score or provide answer keys for the Smarter Balanced ELA and Mathematics Interim Assessments, all item responses are provided for NGSS Interims in AVA. Answer keys for all interim assessments are provided in the Centralized Reporting System.

 Image of Cards on CT Comprehensive Portal

Assessment Viewing Application card 

Access the Test Administration Site, the Assessment Viewing Application, and the Centralized Reporting System from the Connecticut Comprehensive Assessment Portal.

Which Designated Supports and Accommodations are available on the Interim Assessment?  
A variety of built-in universal tools delivered through the online computer platform are available to ALL students. Tools include built-in calculators, the ability to cross out item responses, digital note pads, or enlarging the text on the screen. More specialized supports, known as designated supports, are also available to students when a need is determined by the student, parent/guardian, and teacher. These might include supports such as text-to-speech of test items or the Translated Glossary for mathematics for English Learners. Accommodations are available for students with special needs, as determined by an IEP or a Section 504 Plan. Supports are also available to students who are English Learners (ELs).

Related resources are available on the Connecticut Comprehensive Assessment Program Portal, including the CSDE Assessment Guidelines, the Accessibility Chart and the Embedded and Non-Embedded Designated Supports for English Learners brochure.

More information on interim Universal Tools, Designated Supports and Accommodations can be found in this guide.  

Are there Resources that Support the ELA, Math, and Science Interim Assessments? 

Image of Smarter Balanced Assessment System 

Yes, there are a multitude of resources not only available on the Connecticut State Department of Education Interim Assessment web page but also and on the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessment web page, including 5 Ways to Make Interims a Natural Part of Instruction and Ten Smarter Tools for Ten Years. Check out Tools for Teachers, which includes lessons, formative assessment strategies, performance progressions, professional learning resources, and links to additional Smarter Balanced resources that dive into how test questions are structured and scored.

Be sure to check out NGSS Interim Assessment practice tests, classroom projects, sample items, and standard-specific lessons available on the Next Generation Science Standards site.

More information on interim Resources and Instructional Tools can be found in this guide.