Smarter Balanced drafts of initial achievement level descriptors available

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium recently released drafts of initial achievement level descriptors (ALDs) for feedback and review through Jan. 15, 2013.

The Smarter Balanced assessments will measure student progress toward meeting the Common Core State Standards at each of the tested learning levels over the course of an entire school year. Questions will take on a variety of forms and will capitalize on the power of technology to provide dynamic tests that can be scored quickly. Maine schools are on track to begin using the Smarter Balanced Assessments during the 2014-15 academic year. The assessments will take the place of the New England Common Assessment Program tests taken by students in grades 3 through 8, and the SAT taken by students in high school.

Developed by K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, and content experts, the initial ALDs describe levels of student performance in English language arts/literacy and mathematics on the Smarter Balanced assessments. SBAC has also released a college content-readiness definition with associated implications for 12th grade and post-secondary coursework at each achievement level on the 11th grade assessment.

“The development of initial ALDs represents an important milestone toward achieving agreement between K-12 and higher education about the skills and knowledge students need to demonstrate to succeed in college,” said Jacqueline King, Ph.D., director of higher education collaboration for Smarter Balanced. “Smarter Balanced welcomes feedback from educators, partners, and interested stakeholders on the initial ALDs and the college content-readiness definition.”

The Smarter Balanced system of ALDs is based upon four levels of achievement that describe whether students have demonstrated “deep command,” “sufficient command,” “partial command” or “minimal command” of knowledge, skills and processes across the two assessed content areas of ELA and mathematics. SBAC is developing an integrated suite of ALDs that serve different purposes for item writing, standard-setting and reporting results. Reporting ALDs—which provide guidance to students and parents about how to interpret performance on the assessments—will be developed following standard setting in 2014.

The initial ALDs were developed in October by K-12 teachers and administrators and higher education faculty from two- and four-year colleges and universities representing Smarter Balanced governing states. Following the review period, the initial ALDs will be revised. Governing states are expected to adopt the initial ALDs in March 2013. A full description of the ALDs, the college content-readiness definition and policy framework, and an online survey for providing feedback are available at

“The Smarter Balanced initial ALDs are tightly aligned with the Common Core State Standards, providing clear direction about the rigor and scope of the assessment system,” said William Schmidt, Ph.D., professor at Michigan State University and a participant in the Smarter Balanced ALD drafting workshop.

Smarter Balanced is developing a balanced system of assessments—with formative, interim, and summative components—that measure achievement and growth toward college and career readiness. The work of Smarter Balanced is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help students succeed—regardless of disability, language, or background.


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