Achievement Levels
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Achievement Levels

The Smarter Balanced member states, including Washington, have approved a set of recommendations on “achievement levels” that help to describe student performance on the new assessments. The achievement levels serve as a starting point for discussion about the performance of individual students and of groups of students in English language arts (ELA) and math. There are other measures that students, teachers, and parents can also use to help evaluate the academic progress of students and schools, such as scale scores, growth models, and portfolios of student work.

Smarter Balanced tests align to the our new K-12 learning standards in English language arts and math (Common Core), which are more difficult than our previous standards. As with any change, there will be a period of adjustment as teachers and students get used to the new standards and tests. Lower proficiency rates do not necessarily mean that schools are performing worse or that students are learning less. It means the tests have changed and are measuring different skills. Smarter Balanced tests have been specifically developed to measure real-world skills that students will need when they graduate. We expect this dip in proficiency to be temporary.

Washington's Involvement

Washington was actively involved in setting these initial achievement levels. Teachers, parents, higher education faculty, business leaders, and other community members from our state took part in a highly inclusive, consensus-based, and rigorous process.

Achievement-Level Setting Process

The threshold scores for each achievement level were developed using a process that is considered the “gold standard” in determining what students should know and be able to do at any given achievement level, called the “bookmark” procedure.

  • The process included an in-person panel where close to 500 educators, higher education faculty, parents, and business and community leaders nominated by Washington and the other Consortium members went through assessment questions at each grade level and recommended where to set the achievement levels.

  • The panel included teachers of students with disabilities and English language learners to ensure the new levels are fair and appropriate for all students.

  • There was also an online panel to open the doors to the process to all who wanted to be part of this important effort.

  • The recommendations of both the in-person and online groups were reviewed by a “cross-grade” review committee that ensured that the achievement levels align appropriately across grades 3 through 8 and 11.

  • Finally, technical panels and an external auditor reviewed the recommendations before they were presented to states for approval.

Mathematics Threshold Scores

ELA/Literacy Threshold Scores


   Updated 6/12/2018

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