Kansas drops out of Smarter Balanced testing group

Kansas drops out of Smarter Balanced testing group

(Kan.) The Kansas State Board of Education last week elected to withdraw from the state consortium known as Smarter Balanced, which is developing a student assessment system aligned to new Common Core math and English standards.

While many of Smarter Balanced’s 26 member states are set to conduct field testing of the new assessments this spring, Kansas officials – saying they were concerned about cost – now will look to the University of Kansas’ Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation to design a measurement system for its K-12 students.

“I really think that we need to consider the cost,” board member Ken Willard was quoted in The Topeka Capital-Journal as saying. “We can do the CETE route, albeit it may take a little more time.”

The newspaper reported that, after hours of discussion, an initial motion to stay with Smarter Balanced ended in a 5-5 tie, effectively killing the motion. A second motion to go with KU’s CETE was then approved 8-2.

While Kansas officials cited cost as their reason for exiting, political turmoil over the new, multistate Common Core academic standards has played a role in other states’ decisions to back out.

Opponents of Common Core, originally adopted beginning in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia, argue that the standards are a top-down, one-size-fits-all federal mandate not necessarily appropriate for individual states.

Kansas now becomes the fourth state to seek withdrawl from Smarter Balanced. Similar requests from Utah, Kentucky and Alabama have been accepted by the consortium’s governing board over the past 18 months.

A second consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC, has also had defectors, including Indiana, Florida and Oklahoma.

Kansas officials reported at the meeting that assessments designed by KU’s CETE will cost an estimated $850,000 more per year than what the state pays now, although that figure was not provided. Smarter Balanced tests, they said, would cost an estimated $1 million a year over that.

Kansas University officials reportedly have said that they can create the new assessments with some, but not all, of the same features as Smarter Balanced but they will need until 2016 to have them ready.

Meanwhile the Smarter Balanced assessments will be ready for field testing this spring – California, for example, is set to administer the testing to 95 percent of all third through eighth graders in both math and English language arts.