The Smarter Balanced member states have approved a set of recommendations on “achievement levels” that help to describe student performance on the new assessments. The achievement levels serve as a starting point for discussion about the performance of individual students and of groups of students in English language arts (ELA) and math. There are other measures that students, teachers, and parents can also use to help evaluate the academic progress of students and schools, such as scale scores, growth models, and portfolios of student work.

Smarter Balanced tests align to the our new K-12 (Common Core), which is more difficult than previous standards. With any change, there will be a period of adjustment as teachers and students get used to the new standards and tests. Most schools are preparing for lower proficiency scores based on the change in testing methods. The change in testing and also the measuring of different skills. Smarter Balanced tests have been developed to measure real-world skills that students will need when they graduate. The dip in proficiency is expected to be temporary as teachers align their teaching towards the new standards.

Achievement-Level Setting Process

The threshold scores for each achievement level were developed using a process that is considered the “gold standard” in determining what students should know and be able to do at any given achievement level, called the “bookmark” procedure.

  • The process included an in-person panel where close to 500 educators, higher education faculty, parents, and business and community leaders nominated by Washington and the other Consortium members went through assessment questions at each grade level and recommended where to set the achievement levels.

  • The panel included teachers of students with disabilities and English language learners to ensure the new levels are fair and appropriate for all students.

  • There was also an online panel to open the doors to the process to all who wanted to be part of this important effort.

  • The recommendations of both the in-person and online groups were reviewed by a “cross-grade” review committee that ensured that the achievement levels align appropriately across grades 3 through 8 and 11.

  • Finally, technical panels and an external auditor reviewed the recommendations before they were presented to states for approval.


Mathematics Threshold Scores

Mathematics Estimate Percent

ELA/Literacy Threshold Scores

ELA/Literacy Estimate Percent