Policy | News

Alaska Joins Smarter Balanced but Remains Independent of Common Core

Even as some states begin pushing back against Common Core State Standards, the state of Alaska has signed on as an "advisory" member with one of the two consortia responsible for developing CCSS assessments, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

To be clear, Alaska has not adopted Common Core standards; nor does the move signal that the state will do so. Rather, the state adopted its own new standards that align closely enough with Common Core that, as Alaska's Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) described it, the SBAC assessments will "provide valid and reliable results for Alaska." Alaska provides an overview and comparison of its standards with others on its Toolkit portal. (Click the links under "Transition" to see the details.)

The distinction here is that while Alaska's students will take the Smarter Balanced assessments, Alaska will not be bound by the dictates of any outside organization for "curriculum or teaching methods. Standards and assessments present a goal. School districts retain their authority to decide how to reach that goal."

The Alaska DEED reported that SBAC's summative assessments will be implemented online in the 2014-2015 school year "for grades 3 through 8 and 11" to fulfill NCLB requirements as well as non-high-stakes, formative assessments that will be used throughout the school year.

Smarter Balanced will also "determine the assessment scores that indicate levels of achievement such as advanced, proficient, below proficient, and far below proficient. For the 11th grade assessment, SBAC will work with higher education to define benchmark scores that indicate whether a student is on track to be college-ready, meaning that students should not need remedial courses in English and math in postsecondary institutions."

  Common Core State Standads State Affiliation (Map)

Smarter Balanced has three levels of membership: governing states, advisory states, and affiliate members. Governing states are full members with policy voting power. Most members (21 members) are governing states. Affiliate membership is reserved for United States territories and commonwealths. Advisory states like Alaska provide assessment development guidance and participate in other ways with the consortium but do not have voting rights.

"Alaska is both honored and excited to join Smarter Balanced," said Erik McCormick, director of assessment, accountability, and information management at the Alaska DEED, in a prepared statement. "We look forward to sharing our unique expertise in our advisory role. The resources that the Consortium offers will benefit Alaska in preparing our students to be college- and career-ready."

With the additional of Alaska, the total membership of Smart Balanced is back up to 26. (Utah withdrew from Smarter Balanced back in August 2012, and Alabama dropped out in February.)

Other advisory states include North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .