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Home » Bills » Is there an alternative to the Smarter Balanced assessment? You be the judge.

Is there an alternative to the Smarter Balanced assessment? You be the judge.

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A group of Nashua teachers and board of education members want Nashua to replace the Smarter Balanced assessment with a different test.  And HB 1432 would outlaw Smarter Balanced for two years as well as, the sponsor now says, any other test “associated with the Common Core.”

But our No Child Left Behind waiver and federal law require that:

  • the State give a single statewide annual assessment to every child in grades 3 to 8 and grade 11 (in other words, Nashua doesn’t get to choose its own assessment);
  • the assessment be aligned to New Hampshire’s College and Career Ready Standards which, for English and math, are the Common Core State Standards;
  • the State carry out the waiver agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, an agreement that says the State will use the Smarter Balanced Assessment; and that,
  • any alternative assessment New Hampshire might use, if USDE were to agree to modify the waiver at all, would be subject to a complex and time-consuming peer review and approval process.

So it is clear that, for New Hampshire, at this juncture, there is no viable assessment other than Smarter Balanced.  Any move away from that would risk the State’s waiver and federal funding.


Just pretend for a moment that there were an alternative.  And imagine that Rep. Murotake revived his moribund bill by allowing a Common Core test – presumably just not Smarter Balanced.

What test would it be and how would it compare to the Smarter Balanced assessment we have already been working for years on putting in place?  Here, for reference, is the Smarter Balanced web site.  And here is the description of the tests and a number of practice tests.  And here are the technology requirements for a school, complete with online technology assessment tools.

This is a test that more than 2,000 educators have helped develop.  Hundreds of students have tried each question.  It is being vetted, piloted and field tested by 23 states that educate over 19 million of the nation’s public K-12 students – including New Hampshire students.

The Measured Progress alternative

Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro) and Rep Murotake suggest as an alternative to Smarter Balanced the Dover, NH company, Measured Progressthat has worked for the State of New Hampshire for 20 years and produces the NECAP annual assessment.  Here is Rep. Cordelli’s email to the House Education Committee (the letters he refers to are here  and here).

But even Measured Progress disagrees with Reps. Cordelli and Murotake.  The leadership of Measured Progress said in a March 14 letter to the New Hampshire Department of Education,

“…we at Measured Progress believe that continued participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is the logical course of action for New Hampshire and are confident that our schools would be pleased with the result.”

The 30 year old testing company with some 500 employees has worked with the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium from the beginning and knows what it is talking about.  They go on to say in their letter,

“I suspect no company has been as supportive of Smarter Balanced as Measured Progress. In fact, we have fulfilled very successfully several Smarter Balanced contracts that helped lay the foundation for its success. We completed contracts for the design of the consortium’s technology platform, accessibility specifications, item and task specifications, and item development training. Furthermore, we accomplished additional tasks for the consortium without compensation:  the completion of content specifications and the development of a framework for alignment studies. Additionally, in support of the open-source commitment of the consortium, we offer free licenses for a patented system of online delivery of accessible test content. Also, as you may know, we are strong advocates for the Accessible Portable Item Protocols, a set of standards for accessible, interoperable test content that the assessment consortia and most testing companies have adopted.  A Measured Progress group worked with a consortium of states a few years ago to develop those standards.”

The conclusion they reach is that Smarter Balanced is the best test around:

“No individual state has ever or will ever devote any amount of effort even close to that expended by Smarter Balanced to design and develop its comprehensive, innovative program. The significant funding made available to the consortium allowed its staff, consultants, and contractors to attend to all aspects of a state-of-the art assessment program thoroughly and effectively. Furthermore, the best minds in the assessment community were brought together to assure a program of the highest quality. Interestingly, a recent study by the State of Michigan attests to the quality of the program Smarter Balanced is developing.”

Why would legislators recommend a change that the leading professionals in the field would not consider responsible?

But they suggest other possibilities as well

Reps. Murotake and Cordelli throw out a number of additional possibilities, apparently hoping something will stick.

They suggest the SAT which, when it becomes available, might indeed be a possibility for the 11th grade test, but a Common Core aligned version will not be available for years.

They have mentioned a version of the MCAS that Massachusetts is using on an interim basis – an “interim” test that assesses students against standards our teachers and students have never seen here in New Hampshire.

They have suggested the New York test, partially aligned with New York’s former standards and partially aligned with the Common Core – and the cause of wall-to-wall rebellion in New York.

And they have even suggest contracting with Kansas University to create a New Hampshire test.

Does this really need further discussion?

UPDATE 3/13/14: I have updated this post to reflect the information in the March 14 Measured Progress letter to the Commissioner Barry.


  1. Let’s not overlook the NY Regents which just voted to delay their Common Core aligned assessments for far longer than two years.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Really? Look more closely, Doris. They delayed not the assessments but the high stakes tied with the assessments – high stakes that we don’t even have here in New Hampshire!

      Plus they’ve got a homemade assessment that doesn’t measure up to our Smarter Balanced test.

  2. Karen Merriam says:

    Or, we could support something like this national bill and at least reduce the current federal mandate.

    Testing has grown too big for it’s britches.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      There is definitely too much testing – unless you ask people concerned with minorities and students with disabilities. That’s where the push-back will come. They feel the heavy NCLB testing regime has brought much needed focus to those students.

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