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Smarter Balanced Remains Best Common Core Testing Option, Michigan Dept. Says

A study by the Michigan education department reports that the common-core aligned test being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium remains the best option available to the state. 

You may remember that roughly a month ago, the Michigan legislature voted to "unfreeze" state spending on the Common Core State Standards, following a funding freeze that kicked in Oct. 1 while lawmakers reviewed the pros and cons of the standards. One of the conditions of letting state funds flow to the standards again was that the department had to conduct a study of the various assessments available to the state that could in theory be used. It was a way for lawmakers to clarify that even though the state was a member of Smarter Balanced and has close ties to it (Joseph Martineau, the department's chief of accountability and assessment, is co-chair of Smarter Balanced's executive committee), Michigan was not absolutely committed to the tests.

That study from the Michigan department was released Dec. 1. What did it find? The clearest answer is in this sentence from the report: "[Smarter Balanced] remains the only viable option that can satisfy all of the multiple needs for test security, student data privacy, a Michigan governance role, Michigan educator involvement, minimizing local burdens, cost effectiveness, Michigan access to all data to allow for verification, and so on."

The study looked at a variety of assessments, including the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the other state-led consortium working on common-core assessments, ACT Aspire, and CTB/McGraw-Hill's tests. Overall, 12 different assessment options were considered. The study then rated those assessments in a variety of categories, including alignment to the common core, cost, test security, and technical requirements. The tests were either deemed to fully meet the requirements, partially meet the requirements, or not meet them in a variety of sub-categories. (Sometimes the study deemed it unclear whether tests met the requirements.) 

Smarter Balanced was consistently the top performer across these categories. Sometimes another test, such as the one from CTB/McGraw-Hill, went stride for stride with the Smarter Balanced test, such as in the scoring and reporting category, or close to it. But the report makes it clear that no other assessment would match Smarter Balanced's entire package. 

The report also mentions that while Michigan has the potential to create its own assessment for the standards, but has not done so up to this point due to the "economies of scale provided by working with a consortium have allowed Michigan to avoid those substantial new funding needs." That's a reference to Smarter Balanced.

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