Higher Ed Approved

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

In spring 2017, about 6 million students in grades 3-8 and in high school took the end-of-year Smarter Balanced assessments. Now more than 200 colleges and universities in 10 states have decided to use the assessments as part of a multiple measures approach to determine whether students are in need of remedial support. Additionally, six colleges in South Dakota use Smarter Balanced scores for “guaranteed general admission.

Download the higher education fact sheet (PDF).

A group of multi-ethnic high school students work in a computer lab.


Each Smarter Balanced member 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 advisory committees. The Smarter Balanced director of higher education collaboration 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 assessment design decisions—with the goal that colleges and universities across Smarter Balanced members accept 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
  • 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.

In addition, in six member states (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, South Dakota, and Washington), 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 help identify students who are ready for accelerated options such as dual enrollment.

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States Using Smarter Balanced Scores

Institutions of higher education in the following states use Smarter Balanced scores. Select a state to read its higher education policy (where available) and see a list of participating schools.

Participating Schools: