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Smarter Balanced members voted to approve the initial achievement levels for the math and English assessments that will be administered in 17 states and one territory this school year. The achievement levels help provide a more accurate picture of individual student performance, and the vote marks an incredibly important milestone in the development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System.

Achievement Level Setting was an inclusive, collaborative process that involved an unprecedented level of educator and public input. More than 2,500 educators, parents, and other interested stakeholders provided input during the Online Panel. Their recommendations were shared at In-Person workshops in Dallas with nearly 500 teachers, school leaders, higher education faculty, parents, community leaders, and other stakeholders. Participants reviewed test questions and determined threshold scores for four achievement levels for each grade in both subjects. In addition, a cross-grade review committee comprised of 72 members took results from both the Online Panel and In-Person workshops into consideration as they developed recommendations aligned across grades to reflect student progress from year to year.

It’s important to remember that achievement levels are a starting point for discussion about the performance of individual students and groups of students. In addition to achievement levels, there are other ways to evaluate academic progress of students and schools. Smarter Balanced states unanimously approved a position paper that provides guidelines for how scores and achievement levels can be used and interpreted.

We know that new content standards set higher expectations for students. That’s why the new assessments are designed to evaluate student performance against those higher standards. It is therefore not surprising that we may see a decline in student scores this year. However, over time the performance of students will improve.

In the coming months, Smarter Balanced states will present the approved achievement level recommendations to policymaking entities that have the authority to formally adopt achievement levels in each state.This authority typically rests with the state board of education.

To learn more about the Achievement Level Setting process, visit the Achievement Levels page.

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