CONTACT:  Michele Clark
Communications Coordinator

No. 44, No. 68

September 2, 2010

Consortium of States to Create Next-Generation Assessment System
$160 million development grant awarded by U.S. Department of Education

Missouri students and educators will benefit in future years from a federal grant announced today, state education officials said. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $160 million in Race to the Top assessment funds to the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) to develop a comprehensive student assessment system aligned to a common core of academic standards.

SBAC is comprised of 31 state partners, including Missouri. Formed in December 2009, it is the first collaboration of its kind for a majority of states to join together to develop a high-quality, internationally benchmarked assessment system that all states can use.

The assessment system to be developed by SBAC is tied to the Common Core State Standards, an initiative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to create a consistent and clear set of learning standards for K-12 in English language arts and mathematics.

To date, at least 36 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards. The Missouri State Board of Education approved the standards earlier this year.

“The consortium will be able to design a much stronger system of assessments and teacher resources than any single state could afford to develop,” said Michael Muenks, assistant commissioner of the Office of College and Career Readiness, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

As one of 17 governing states in the SBAC, Missouri is heavily involved in the development of the new assessment system. With the grant award, the consortium will quickly dig in to establish advisory committees and leverage the expertise and resources of partner states to develop the new assessment system.

The new SBAC tests will measure the full range of the common core standards in grades 3-8 and 11, including assessing problem-solving and complex-thinking skills. The new comprehensive assessment system will include state-of-the-art, online exams which will provide more immediate and useful information to students, teachers, parents and school officials about student progress.

Teachers in participating states will be involved at all stages of item-writing and test development. The online system will be designed to provide accurate assessment information on the academic progress of all students, including those with disabilities and English-language learners. It will include:

  • required “summative exams,” to be offered twice each school year
  • optional “formative” or “benchmark” exams to provide periodic assessment of progress and
  • a variety of tools to help teachers use informal, regular assessments of student progress.

Funding for the assessment grant will begin October 1. SBAC will begin its work by conducting an assessment framework study, meaning the group will analyze the common core standards at each grade level to determine what skills are to be tested. The bulk of the test development work will be conducted in spring 2011.

Missouri education officials currently plan to field-test elements of the new assessment system during the 2012-13 school year and introduce operational exams to the Missouri Assessment Program for English language arts and mathematics in 2013-14.


States in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium



New Hampshire
New Mexico*
New Jersey
North Carolina*
North Dakota


South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia*

*Denotes governing states

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