Making the Smarter Balanced Placement Policy Work for Students and the System

Now that the Washington higher education system (community and technical colleges as well as the public baccalaureate institutions) has adopted policy agreements on using the Smarter Balanced assessment scores for 11th graders in course placement decisions, as we enter 2015 and move closer to the first full administration of the Smarter Balanced assessment this spring we are turning our attention to the critical logistical issues related to making the policy work.

For the community and technical college system, we assembled a work group of representatives from key stakeholder groups who will be involved in implementing the policy at the campus level, asking them to raise issues and questions from their various perspectives so that we could begin clarifying and making operational the particulars of the policy. (You can see the slides and notes from this meeting and provide input here.) We will be asking the work group representatives to consult with their various constituent groups beginning in their winter quarter meetings to continue the discussion, raising additional questions, developing answers where appropriate, and proposing solutions to process or logistical concerns where possible.

At the same time we will be connecting to our K-12 colleagues here in Washington as they finalize the work on Smarter Balanced score reporting format and process that will be critical to higher education’s ability to access and use the scores in the placement process. For the bulk of the students involved–juniors taking the 11th grade assessment and using it for placement when they enter college a year later–we have some time to figure out how things will work. The pressing immediate issue is for students who want to use the scores for placement into dual-credit courses (Running Start, College in the High School, …) during their senior year of high school (for this first cohort, that will be fall 2015). That group should be considerably smaller than the group seeking placement after graduation; given the timing and the scale, we may develop an interim “fix” for fall 2015 while we work on a more permanent solution for fall 2016. As the work moves forward we’ll provide updates here and/or on the work group page.

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