Achievement Level Descriptors

Achievement Levels

About Achievement Level Setting

Achievement level setting, also known as standard setting, is the process for establishing one or more threshold scores on an assessment, making it possible to create categories of performance. In April, Smarter Balanced Governing States approved a three-phase design for achievement level setting

  1. An Online Panel (scheduled for October 6–17) allowed thousands of K-12 educators, higher education faculty, parents, and other interested parties to participate virtually in recommending achievement levels.
  2. An In-Person Panel (October 13–19) with educators and other stakeholders working in grade-level teams deliberated and made recommendations for the threshold scores of the four achievement levels.
  3. The Cross-Grade Review Committee, a subset of the In-Person Panel, examined recommendations across all grades to consider the reasonableness of the system of cut scores.

States nominated participants for the In-Person Panel this spring.  K-12 educators, higher education faculty, and other interested stakeholders signed up to participate in the Online Panel during an open registration period from April 22 to September 26.

On November 14, in a meeting with our state chief education officials (and/or their delegates) states voted to endorse an approved set of achievement level scores for Smarter Balanced. The states also approved a statement on the interpretation and use of scores and achievement levels.

Over the coming weeks, Smarter Balanced member states will work toward formally adopting the achievement levels. Once adopted by each state, the achievement levels will appear on score reports for assessments administered in the 2014-2015 school year. For more information, read the complete press release announcing state approval of the achievement levels.

For more information on the Achievement Level Setting process, watch a video explaining the process that Smarter Balanced used to develop the achievement levels and scores now approved by member states.

Video of Achievement Level Setting: Establishing a new baseline for college and career readiness standards (YouTube)

Threshold Scores

Math Threshold Scores:

Grade Level 4 Level 3 Level 2
3 2501 2436 2381
4 2549 2485 2411
5 2579 2528 2455
6 2610 2552 2473
7 2635 2567 2484
8 2653 2586 2504
11 2718 2628 2543

ELA Threshold Scores:

Grade Level 4 Level 3 Level 2
3 2490 2432 2367
4 2533 2473 2416
5 2582 2502 2442
6 2618 2531 2457
7 2649 2552 2479
8 2668 2567 2487
11 2682 2583 2493


Achievement Level Descriptors and College Content-Readiness

Achievement level descriptors (ALDs) articulate the knowledge, skills, and processes expected of students at different levels of performance on the Smarter Balanced assessments. Smarter Balanced is developing an integrated suite of ALDs aligned with the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced assessment claims in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.The ALDs were developed by K-12 teachers and administrators and higher education faculty from two- and four-year colleges and universities representing Smarter Balanced Governing States. The ALDs are linked to an operational definition of college content-readiness, as well as a policy framework to guide score interpretation for high schools and colleges.


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