Higher Education

 More than one-third of all students require developmental education once they enter public two- and four-year colleges. Smarter Balanced is working with higher education leaders and faculty to develop an assessment system that helps prepare high school graduates for the demands of college.


A College Readiness Assessment

Too many students graduate from high school without the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and the workplace. The Smarter Balanced assessments are part of a national movement to address this problem. The assessments are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by K-12 educators and college faculty to define the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in college and the workplace. The assessment system—including summative and interim assessments and formative resources for teachers—will provide accurate and consistent information about student progress toward college readiness.

The Common Core standards and Smarter Balanced assessments provide high schools and colleges with the tools and opportunity to improve student achievement, create stronger alignment between high school preparation and entry-level college courses, and identify and address students’ academic deficiencies early so that they can avoid the time and expense of taking developmental courses that will not count toward their degrees.

In spring 2015, 7 million students in Grades 3 through 8 and 11 in 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands will take the end-of-year Smarter Balanced assessments. More than 200 colleges and universities in seven of these states have already decided to use the assessments as part of a multiple measures approach to determine whether students are ready for credit-bearing courses and can be exempted from developmental courses.


State Number of Institutions Types of Participating Institutions For More Information
California 101 California State University: 23 campus system, 78 community colleges The California State University California Community Colleges
Delaware 4 All public institutions: 2 universities and 1 community college, 1 independent university Coming soon
Hawaii 10 All public institutions: 3 universities, 7 community colleges University of Hawaii System
Oregon 24 All public institutions: 7 universities and 17 community colleges Core 2 College Oregon
South Dakota 6 All public universities South Dakota Board of Regents
Washington 49 All public institutions: 6 colleges and universities and 34 community and technical colleges, 9 independent colleges and universities Washington Student Achievement Council 
Total 194 47 public colleges and universities, 10 independent colleges and universities, and 137 public community and technical colleges

In addition, in seven member states (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia), K-12 and higher education have collaborated to create Grade 12 courses to help students graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing courses. Smarter Balanced scores also will be used in several states to identify students who are ready for accelerated options such as dual enrollment.

Higher Education Involvement

Each Smarter Balanced state has a Higher Education Lead who serves as a liaison between Smarter Balanced and state higher education institutions. In addition, higher education leaders hold seats on the Executive Committee and serve on key Consortium work groups and advisory committees. Jacqueline King, director of higher education collaboration at Smarter Balanced, oversees outreach to the higher education community and provides support to the state higher education leads.

Collaboration with higher education leaders and faculty is critical to our success. Representatives from higher education have been involved in key design decisions—with the goal that colleges and universities across Smarter Balanced member states will accept an agreed-upon achievement level on the assessment as evidence that high school students are ready for entry level, credit-bearing coursework. Major areas of work for higher education have included:

  • Expert advice from higher education faculty in the areas of educational measurement, mathematics, English language arts, and special student populations including students with disabilities and English language learners
  • Development of the Consortium’s College Content-Readiness Policy
  • Design of resources on career readiness for voluntary use by states
  • Development of Achievement Level Descriptors in ELA/literacy and mathematics that provide detailed information on what students should know and be able to do at each of four achievement levels on the Smarter Balanced assessments
  • Establishment of threshold scores that determine whether students are on track to be ready for entry-level, transferable, credit-bearing courses at participating colleges and universities.

For More Information

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