Close to 200 Colleges and Universities to Use Smarter Balanced Scores as Part of Placement

April 15, 2015 — High school students who take the Smarter Balanced exam in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington could enter postsecondary institutions and directly enroll in credit bearing courses. Colleges and universities in these six states will use the high school score as evidence that students are ready for entry-level, credit-bearing courses and may be exempted from remedial courses. Using Smarter Balanced scores is an option for students and scores are not required, but accepted.

“This is a game changer,” said Tony Alpert, Smarter Balanced Executive Director. “In the past, most state tests had no linkage to higher ed. Smarter Balanced has worked with states and higher education to give meaning to high school exams. Now students who take Smarter Balanced assessments and attend 197 institutions will get assurances they are ready to begin college level classes.”

Alpert noted, “Reducing students’ need for remediation can go a long way toward meeting state and national goals for increased degree attainment, as research has consistently shown that students who enter college without need for remediation are far more likely to complete a degree.”

See table below for details on the participating institutions in each of these states.

StateNumber of InstitutionsTypes of Institutions
California101California State University: 23 campus system,78 community colleges
Delaware7All public institutions: 2 universities and 4 community colleges, and 1 independent university
Hawaii10All public institutions: 3 universities, 7 community colleges
Oregon24All public institutions: 7 universities and 17 community colleges
South Dakota6All public universities
Washington49All public institutions: 6 universities and 34 community and technical colleges, 9 independent colleges and universities
Total19747 public universities, 10 independent colleges and universities, and 140 public community and technical colleges

More than 7 million students will take the Smarter Balanced exams in English/language arts and math in 18 states and 1 territory this spring. The tests, delivered in grades 3-8 and 11, were developed by states and are aligned to college- and career-ready standards. Smarter Balanced continues to work with higher education to increase the number of institutions using the Grade 11 assessment.

In addition, in seven states (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia), K-12 and higher education have collaborated to create Grade 12 courses to help students graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing courses. Smarter Balanced scores also will be used in several states to identify students who are ready for accelerated options such as dual enrollment.

Quotes from leaders in states using the 11th grade Smarter Balanced test for exemption from developmental education:

California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White:

“Smarter Balanced puts students in a better position to succeed and may give a student, who had not previously considered college, the incentive to pursue a degree,” said California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White. “The tests will also be a valuable tool to help assess the academic areas where students may need additional tutoring and support, thereby giving them a head start on their path to earning a degree in a timely manner from the CSU. Successful students are integral to the continued success of California and our nation.”

California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris:

“The new Smarter Balanced exam will help community college educators ensure that students who graduate from high school are placed in classes they are ready and able to take,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris. “That cuts down on wasted time and expense, and helps students achieve their educational goals on time.”

Delaware Governor Jack Markell:

“Today’s announcement marks another important step toward giving Delaware students the best chance to succeed in continuing their education beyond high school,” said Governor Markell. “Delaware’s colleges and universities are not only sending our high school juniors a clear signal that the Smarter Balanced Assessments are a valuable tool. They are also showing a commitment to preventing students from taking unnecessary remedial courses, which too often put students off track before they even start their college education.”

Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy: 

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said the colleges’ decisions’ “show that they believe the Common Core standards are rigorous and that the Smarter Balanced Assessments provide a good measure of college readiness.”

University of Hawaii President David Lassner:

“Our agreement to accept 11th grade Smarter Balanced scores for college placement demonstrates the University of Hawaii system’s recognition and appreciation of the increasing preparedness the Hawaii Department of Education is instilling in their graduates through the Hawaii Common Core,” said University of Hawaii President David Lassner. “Together, we are strengthening our state’s educational pipeline and timely completion in support of our Hawaii Graduation Initiative and Hawaii’s goal to have 55% of our working age adults hold a college degree by 2025.”

Oregon Higher Education Coordination Commission Executive Director Ben Cannon:

“Oregon’s higher education course placement agreements are a strong step forward in high school to college alignment, signaling to high school students that their hard work on the Smarter Balanced assessments and rigorous coursework in the 12th grade provide concrete benefits once they get to campus.”

South Dakota Board of Regents Executive Director and CEO Jack Warner:

“Our alignment of Smarter Balanced scores from the 11th grade assessment will assist the regental system in its continued collaboration with the South Dakota Department of Education to reduce the number of students who require remedial coursework when they arrive at one of our six public four-year institutions.  Additionally, as we expand dual credit offerings in the state, the assessment will be a useful tool for placing students into credit bearing coursework during their senior year.”

Washington Student Achievement Council Executive Director Gene Sharratt:

“We are proud of the innovative approaches our education leaders are taking to ensure that our students are well-prepared for any college and career pathway they choose. Collaboration and a student-centered focus have been key to creating the cross-sector agreements aligning secondary and postsecondary education in Washington State. Use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a means of placing students directly into college-level coursework will have a positive impact by increasing access, reducing remediation, and improving career and college attainment. The assessment is formative in nature, allowing for instructional and program adjustments designed to ensure continuous student growth and improvements in learning. And, the assessment itself is a catalyst for higher-order thinking skills, which align with current and future workplace needs.”

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 About Smarter Balanced

Smarter Balanced is a public agency supported by 18 states and one territory. Through the work of thousands of educators, Smarter Balanced created an on-line assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), as well as tools for educators to improve teaching and learning. Smarter Balanced is housed at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS). For more information, please visit