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Consortium receives grant to develop assessment

South Dakota is one of 31 states in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, which has been awarded a four-year $160 million Race to the Top assessment grant by the U.S. Department of Education. The funding will be used to develop an assessment aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

SBAC was one of two consortia awarded a comprehensive assessment system grant. It’s the first collaboration of its kind to develop a common assessment system among a majority of states.

“A common assessment makes sense on so many fronts, especially in light of the movement toward common standards,” said South Dakota Secretary of Education Tom Oster. “Not only is it the fiscally responsible thing to do, but we also will benefit from the knowledge and expertise of our partner states in building an assessment that’s appropriate for the 21st century.”

SBAC will create state-of-the-art adaptive online exams, using “open source” technology. The online system will provide accurate assessment information to teachers and others on the progress of all students.

The system will include:

1) the required summative exams (offered twice each school year);
2) optional formative, or benchmark, exams; and
3) a variety of tools, processes and practices for teachers to use in planning and implementing informal, ongoing assessment. This will assist teachers in understanding what students are and are not learning on a daily basis so they can adjust instruction accordingly.

SBAC’s assessment system will be tied to the Common Core State Standards, an initiative led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. By the end of 2011, states in the consortium must agree to adopt the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math. States still in the consortium in 2014-15 must agree to use the consortium’s tests as their accountability assessments.

Funding for the RTTT assessment grant will begin Oct. 1. SBAC, led by 17 governing states, will begin its work by conducting an assessment framework study. The bulk of the test development work will be conducted in spring 2011.

The governing states are those that are fully committed to SBAC and are engaged in all decisions. South Dakota is an advisory state, which means it can participate in all meetings and workshops but is not part of the decision-making process.