State Board of Education Sets Threshold Scores
New tests to be administered in spring

OLYMPIA — January 20, 2015 — The Washington State Board of Education last week approved the minimum scores on new state tests that students need to achieve to be on track for success when they graduate from high school.

The new tests – known as Smarter Balanced tests – will be given to students in grades 3-8 and 11 for the first time this spring. The tests cover math and English language arts.

At a November 2014 meeting, representatives from the 17 states and one territory in the Smarter Balanced consortium set the minimum scores, known as “threshold scores.” State law (Revised Code of Washington 28A.305.130) requires that the State Board of Education formally approve the scores.

“Our new standards are much more rigorous than our previous standards,” said Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction and a State Board member. “They are designed to help students be career and college ready by the time they graduate from high school. The new tests measure how each student is progressing toward that goal at all the grades that are tested.”

Scores from the new tests will range from about 2000 to 3000 and will be divided into four levels. Each level represents how well the student demonstrates the understanding of, and ability to apply, the skills needed for career and college readiness:

  • Level 1: minimal understanding of/ability to apply skills
  • Level 2: partial understanding of/ability to apply skills
  • Level 3: adequate understanding of/ability to apply skills
  • Level 4: thorough understanding of/ability to apply skills

The threshold scores are the minimum scores a student needs to reach an achievement level. Students scoring in levels 3 or 4 are considered on track toward career and college readiness. The threshold scores are posted on the State Board of Education website.

Dorn noted that because this is the first year of the tests, results will be considered a new “baseline.” They shouldn’t be compared to the results of previous years’ tests.

“The slate is clean this year,” he said.

Dorn was part of the November meeting that set the threshold scores. He said that the panel that determined the scores was made up of representatives from all over the country. “The process of setting the scores was very thorough,” he said.

The chair of the State Board, Isabel Munoz-Colon, emphasized that the scores approved by the Board last week are not the scores required for high school graduation.

“The Board is looking carefully at approaches for setting the required scores for a diploma. We are committed to being thoughtful during this transition, with an eye toward fairness to students and staff as we work to fully implement the higher standards as a system.” Munoz-Colon said that work was expected to be completed in August.

Students in grades 3-8 will begin taking the new tests in March. Students in 11th grade will begin taking the tests in April.


About OSPI
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.

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Nathan Olson
OSPI Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015

The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015


   Updated 1/20/2015

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