Jim Brady, Dean
Computing, Math and Science, Accounting, Economics, Social Sciences, & Human Services
Spokane Falls Community College

The Smarter Balanced assessments were developed to accompany the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and English/Language Arts in a number of states, mostly in the west.  While these assessments are designed to measure student achievement in knowledge and skills, the intent has always been to also use the Smarter Balance assessments to provide high school students with the opportunity to gain assurance that they will not be forced to take remedial courses in English and Mathematics upon entering college. Thanks to two recently signed agreements, graduating students now have that assurance for every public college and university in the state of Washington. 

In the late summer and fall of 2014, two separate agreements honoring 11th grade Smarter Balanced scores were drafted and approved; one for the public universities of Washington state (University of Washington, Washington State University, Eastern Washington State University, Central Washington University, Western Washington University and the Evergreen state College) and another for the Community Colleges of the state of Washington. 

In each test, students can achieve a score of 1, 2, 3 or 4. 

The university agreement applies to high school students meeting the admission requirements of the chosen university and achieving a 3 or 4 on the appropriate 11th grade Smarter Balanced assessment. 

  • During the first year after graduation, a student achieving a 3 or a 4 on the 11th grade assessment English/Language Arts assessment may enroll directly into a college level English composition course. 
  • Also during the first year after graduation, a student achieving a 3 or a 4 on the 11th grade assessment Mathematics assessment may enroll directly into a college level course that fulfills a quantitative requirement for that university. 

In each case, student will be exempt from remedial coursework that does not fulfill a requirement for a degree. 

The community college agreement is slightly more complicated. However, it offers additional opportunities to avoid remediation. This agreement also applies to Running Start students, a program that allows students to enroll in high and college courses simultaneously. 

  • During the first year after graduation, a student achieving a 3 or a 4 on the 11th grade assessment English/Language Arts assessment may enroll directly into a college level English composition course.

In Math the assurances are only for the fall quarter immediately following graduation from high school, though some colleges are extending the agreement through the first year.

  • A student achieving a 4 on the 11th grade assessment Mathematics assessment may enroll directly into a selection of college level Math courses (including pre-calculus) that fulfills a quantitative requirement for the college. 
  • A student achieving a 3 on the 11th grade assessment Mathematics assessment may enroll directly into a selection of college level Math courses (not including pre-calculus) that fulfills a quantitative requirement for the college. 

A student with a score of 3 on the mathematics assessment can reach level 4 status by achieving a B or better in a course from the calculus pathway higher than Algebra II. In both Mathematics and English, a student with a score of 2 can reach level 3 status by achieving a B or better in a college readiness course offered by their high school. These courses, generally known as Bridge courses, have been developed at the state level and are available for high schools to offer. 

Both the university and community college agreement are in place through the 2017-18 school year, when both will be reconsidered based on student performance. Unlike high schools, colleges and universities do not answer to a coordinating body that assures common standards for all; historically what college level has meant in either Math or English depended on the school. These agreements not only provide a unique opportunity for high schools to gain assurances that they will not be obligated to take remedial courses costing time and money. They also establish a measure of consistency in standards for colleges and universities.