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31-State Consortium Submits RTTT Assessment Application
SMARTER Balanced is competing for a grant of up to $160 million to develop a student assessment system aligned with the common core academic standards

OLYMPIA, Wash. — June 23, 2010 — A 31-state consortium today submitted its application for a federal grant that would develop a student assessment system aligned to a common core of academic standards.

The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, formed in December 2009, hopes to receive a Race to the Top assessment grant from the US Department of Education. The grant, which lasts four years, is worth as much as $160 million. No more than two grants will be awarded.

Washington is the applicant state on behalf of the consortium.

The assessment system to be developed by SBAC is tied to the Common Core Standards, an initiative led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association to create a consistent and clear set of learning standards for K-12 in English language arts and mathematics that all states can use. By the end of 2011, states in the consortium must agree to adopt the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math. States still in the consortium in 2014-15 must agree to use the consortium’s tests as their accountability assessments.

“It’s encouraging that so many states from across the country are working together to create an assessment system that aligns with efforts to adopt consistent and clear learning standards, ensuring every child gets the quality education they deserve to be ready for the global economy when they graduate,” said Chris Gregoire, Washington state governor. “The application submitted today is a strong one and should we be awarded the grant, these funds will go a long way to building the innovative system we need to help our children succeed.”

The SBAC tests will measure the full range of the common core standards in grades 3-8 and 11, including assessing problem solving and complex thinking skills. Teachers in participating states will be involved at all stages of item and test development, including writing, scoring and the design of reporting systems. Educators will also be able to access a reporting system that identifies each student’s strengths, weakness and progress toward college and career readiness.

SBAC will create state-of-the-art adaptive online exams, using “open source” technology. The online system will provide accurate assessment information to teachers and others on the progress of all students, including those with disabilities, English language learners and low- and high-performing students. The system will include:

  1. the required summative exams (offered twice each school year);
  2. optional formative, or benchmark, exams; and
  3. a variety of tools, processes and practices for teachers to use in planning and implementing informal, ongoing assessment. This will assist teachers in understanding what students are and are not learning on a daily basis so they can adjust instruction accordingly.

“Our state moved to online testing this year with great success,” State Superintendent Randy Dorn said. “The classroom tools that will be developed as a result of a successful application will greatly benefit our students and students across the nation. We need to provide more easy-to-use classroom tools to assist our teachers in improving student learning.”

SBAC’s goal – to ensure that all students leaving high school are college and career ready – will be achieved with the high-quality assessment system to be created by the consortium. The system will include rigorous, internationally benchmarked tests that report on how each student has been progressing toward and is currently performing on a pathway to career and college readiness.

The test scores will be able to be used for improved educator accountability and to help identify professional development needs of teachers and principals.

“The SBAC proposal addresses the pressing national need for a high quality assessment system that goes beyond simply measuring a narrow set of basic skills toward a model that will provide useful information to teachers, students, and parents alike, and will be much better aligned with college and career readiness goals,” said Dr. David T. Conley, professor at the University of Oregon and chief executive officer of the Educational Policy Improvement Center. “The effort and expertise that has gone into producing this proposal is unprecedented.”

Throughout the year, students will have the option to take formative exams, which provide guidance to teachers about instructional milestones. These formative tests and multiple opportunities to take what are traditionally year-end summative exams will move the testing process away from the traditional one-size-fits-all state exams. The goal is for students who score well on specific learning standards earlier in the school year not to be tested on those standards later on an end-of-the-year test because they’ve already demonstrated proficiency.

“This is an historic opportunity for states to work together to build a world-class assessment system in a time of tight resources,” said SBAC Policy Advisor Susan Gendron, the former Maine commissioner of education. “This type of adaptive assessment is only cost effective for a large group of states. We’re confident students and teachers around our nation will benefit from this collaboration.”

The U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce its awards in September 2010. States in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium will share many of the operational costs of the assessment system.

Learn more about the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium.


SMARTER Balanced States

States in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (as of June 17):

New Jersey
North Carolina
South Carolina

New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Dakota
South Dakota
West Virginia


   Updated 6/23/2010

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