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Smarter Balanced Asks Educators To Help Set Performance Levels for Online Assessments

At a recent policy-making event, Smarter Balanced’s governing states cemented their support for several key implementation decisions and are calling for help from educators in participating states to help set the four "performance levels" in advance of the first online assessments, slated for the 2014-2015 school year.

The conference in Minneapolis brought together education chiefs from participating states--there are 21 total — who also voted on their self-developed Career Readiness Frameworks and revised preliminary summative blueprints for ELA and math.

In order to set the four performance levels on the assessments, the consortium will first review the results of the field tests wrapping up in June. For the field tests, more than 20,000 test items and performance tasks were tried out. Afterward, Smarter Balanced will solicit recommendations from educators and other stakeholders in three phases before setting the so-called "threshold test scores," which will ultimately separate the performance levels. The phases include:

  1. An online panel (scheduled for October 6-17) with up to 250,000 K-12 educators, higher education faculty, parents, and others to participate virtually in recommending achievement levels (registration is now open);
  2. An in-person workshop (October 12–19) with panels of educators and other stakeholders working in grade-level teams working to make recommendations for the thresholds. (States will nominate participants this spring); and
  3. A vertical articulation committee, which will be a subset of the in-person workshop. The committee will examine recommendations across all grades to “consider the reasonableness of the system of cut scores,” according to Smarter Balanced.

As a final step, governing states will meet this fall to review and endorse achievement level recommendations.

"Our approach to achievement level setting emphasizes collaboration and transparency to establish a consistent means of measuring student progress on the Smarter Balanced interim and summative assessments," said Smarter Balanced Executive Director Joe Willhoft in a statement.

The states also voted to endorse the Career Readiness Frameworks created by a special taskforce comprised of representatives from participating states and other experts. The 16 frameworks provide guidance to students, parents, and teachers to help inform students as they set future career and education goals. A different framework was developed for each of the career clusters developed by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc).

Also approved at the meeting were the revised preliminary summative assessment blueprints for ELA/literacy and math, which take a look at the assessments for grades 3-8 and 11 and outline the content and skill areas that will be covered, the number of items used to assess each content and skill area, and whether those items will be part of the computer-adaptive test or the performance task.

The next Smarter Balanced Collaboration Conference will be held in fall 2014.


About the Author

Stephen Noonoo is an education technology journalist based in Los Angeles. He is on Twitter @stephenoonoo.

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