Oregon to Drop Smarter Balanced in High School

By Catherine Gewertz — May 01, 2017 2 min read
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Oregon has decided to drop the Smarter Balanced exam at the high school level, a move that has not only practical but symbolic significance, since the state served as a home base for the consortium, and played a leading role in its development.

Oregon will continue to administer the Smarter Balanced exam to students in grades 3-8 and 11 through the spring of 2018, state education department spokeswoman Tricia Yates told Education Week in an email. Starting in 2018-19, only students in grades 3-8 will take the test, she said.

For high school students, Oregon will explore using a “nationally recognized” test, such as the SAT or ACT, she said. Yates said the department would also consider “other” assessment options, but didn’t name specific tests. The state will issue a “request for information” this spring to collect ideas from the field, and then issue a “request for proposals” later this summer, Yates said.

The decision to change high school exams came as a result of “input from stakeholders,” Yates said. The state board of education would have to approve any new test.

Federal law has long allowed states to use college-admissions exams in place of other summative tests for accountability, but few states have done so. The Every Student Succeeds Act invites states to use “a nationally recognized high school test” for accountability instead of state-developed or consortium-designed exams.

Forty-five states had pledged to use tests by PARCC or Smarter Balanced in 2010, when the two federally funded consortia were at the peak of their popularity. This year, only 20 states and the District of Columbia are using tests by those two groups. Rhode Island has announced that it will drop PARCC next year.

The popularity of the consortium tests has eroded particularly at the high school level. Trying to cut back on testing time and boost students’ motivation to do well on a high school test, states are increasingly opting to use the ACT or SAT.

Smarter Balanced issued a solicitation in February to see if it could partner with a big testing company—presumably ACT or the College Board—on an assessment that could essentially kill two birds with one stone: It could provide information states could use in accountability reports, and also serve as a college-admissions exam.

Leaders of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium drew heavily on Oregon’s experience with computer-adaptive testing when they set out to craft the new exam in 2010. The group’s work, while national, was based largely in Washington state, Oregon, and California.

For more on the assessments each state uses, see:

Testing Landscape Continues to Shift

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.