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SMARTER Balanced Names Willhoft as Executive Director
Dr. Joe Willhoft of Washington state will be the 31-state consortium’s first director

OLYMPIA, Wash. — October 27, 2010 — Dr. Joe Willhoft, a veteran educator with extensive assessment expertise, has been named Executive Director of the 31-state SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), one of two multi-state consortia awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a landmark assessment system based on the new Common Core State Standards.

Willhoft served as the Washington state representative to SBAC throughout the consortium's conceptual and proposal development phases. He is stepping down from his position as Assistant Superintendent for Assessment and Student Information for Washington's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, where he has been responsible for that state's assessment program for the past six years. His more than 40-year education career includes teaching at all levels, from elementary through graduate school; management roles at the school, district and state levels; and 26 years of assessment development and oversight.

Willhoft will begin work as SBAC's Executive Director on Nov. 15, 2010. In this role, he will provide strategic leadership and management support to the multiple and complex projects that will make up the consortium's groundbreaking scope of work.

"Joe Willhoft has been involved since day one, making him intimately familiar with the vision and goals of the consortium and its inner workings as an organization," SBAC Executive Committee co-chair Judy Park said. "Combined with his expertise, his experience with the consortium will be crucial in allowing him to assume his responsibilities with immediate impact."

SBAC was awarded a four-year, $176 million Race to the Top assessment grant in September to develop a student assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The consortium'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 SBAC, with strong support from institutions of higher learning and industry. The system will include rigorous, internationally benchmarked tests that report on how each student has been progressing toward a pathway to college and career readiness.

The new assessment system will include performance tasks and 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 interim exams; and
  3. a variety of formative tools, processes and practices for teachers to use in planning and implementing ongoing classroom assessment. This will assist teachers in understanding what students are and are not learning on a daily basis so they can adjust instruction accordingly.

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, weaknesses and progress toward college and career readiness.

Funding for the RTTT assessment grant began October 1, 2010. SBAC, led by 17 governing states, will begin its work by conducting an assessment framework study, meaning the group will analyze the common core standards at each grade level to determine how skills can be tested. The bulk of the test development work will be conducted in spring 2011.

Learn more about the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium at


About OSPI

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine Educational Service Districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

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The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015


   Updated 10/27/2010

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