Joe Willhoft, who has led the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for the last five years, announced Thursday that he will retire on Dec. 31. Willhoft will continue to work with the consortium as a senior technical and strategic advisor, and a member of its technical advisory committee, he told Education Week.
Tony Alpert, who has been in leadership roles at Smarter Balanced from its inception, including most recently as chief operating officer, will become the group’s
new executive director on Jan. 1, 2015.
Willhoft, 66, began his work with Smarter Balanced in 2009, when the unnamed consortium was taking shape with the idea of designing new assessments for the Common Core State Standards. In 2010, it applied for and won $175.8 million in federal Race to the Top grants to build that suite of tests and tools. Another group of states, PARCC, also won federal grants to design its own version of common-core tests.
The change in leadership at Smarter Balanced is part and parcel of its transition from a federally grant-funded organization to a separate body as the four-year grants wind down. Over the next few months, the consortium will complete its transition to becoming a unit of the University of California-Los Angeles. Instead of relying on federal grants, it will be supported by member states’ contracts for services such as updating the bank of test items and maintaining the technology that drives its computer-adaptive test. (PARCC has made its own transition plan, becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.)
Willhoft said he looked forward to staying involved with Smarter Balanced as its first operational tests make their debut next spring. But the transition to UCLA offered a good point to “make a break” to spend more time with his newly retired wife, his children, and his first grandchild.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.