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Missouri Judge: Smarter Balanced Consortium is 'Unlawful Interstate Compact'

A circuit court judge in Missouri ruled Feb. 24 that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an "unlawful interstate compact" and that the state's participation in the consortium breaks both Missouri and federal law.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green wrote that the federally funded testing consortium, which has developed tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards, was also never authorized by the U.S. Congress. However, the state department of education issued a statement in response to Green's ruling that the ruling won't impact the state's assessment plans this spring.

The TV news station KOMU reported that state Attorney General Chris Koster is reviewing Green's ruling. Green previously issued an order last November that the state had to stop making payments to Smarter Balanced while he reviewed the case. 

I wrote about this lawsuit, brought by Fred Sauer, a conservative activist involved in a range of policy issues, and other Missouri residents against the state, last December. These plaintiffs said taxpayer dollars had been spent on the state's membership in Smarter Balanced without any legal authorization. The plaintiffs in Sauer et al. vs. Missouri also oppose the common core, and say that the standards and tests have stripped power away from the state over its public schools. 

The education department has said that because state law requires the state to administer Smarter Balanced for the 2014-15 school year, Sauer's lawsuit won't stop the state from administering the test. Last December, department spokeswoman Sarah Potter told me that the lawsuit ultimately only deals with the state's membership dues to the consortium, and not whether they can pay for the test itself. (It's not immediately clear, however, how broadly the word "participation" should be interpreted in Green's subsequent Feb. 24 ruling.)

Missouri will use Smarter Balanced in grades 5 and 8 this year, and a scaled-down version of the test in grades 3, 4, 6, and 7. However, earlier this month, Missouri, as well as Michigan and Wisconsin, announced they won't use the adaptive-testing feature of the Smarter Balanced exam. This feature presents students with questions based on their answers to previous ones, and not based on a fixed progression.

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