Smarter Balanced Looking for New Fiscal Agent After UCLA Ends Agreement

Managing Editor

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a major designer of common-core tests for states, is looking for a new fiscal agent after the University of California, Los Angeles, said it will no longer do that work.

UCLA made the decision to not renew its contract with Smarter Balanced after the current three-year deal ends on June 30, 2017, both entities said in a joint statement.

Neither side offered Marketplace K-12 specifics on why UCLA made the decision, though they both indicated the decision was the university’s.

“The joint work was mutually beneficial,” the university and consortium said. “UCLA notified Smarter Balanced on Sept. 28 that it would not renew the agreement at this natural ending point.”

Kathryn Kranhold, associate vice chancellor for UCLA’s communications and outreach, said in an e-mail that some links between the university and the testing consortium would remain in place.

“UCLA is only relinquishing its administrative role with Smarter Balanced,” she said, “and UCLA hopes to focus on scholarly work and new research lines in coordination” with the consortium.

Smarter Balanced’s preference is to broker a deal with another institution that is part of the University of California system to act as fiscal agent, said Chris Barron, a spokesman for the organization, in an interview. Talks are underway with potential partners, he said.

The consortium has a memorandum of understanding with the University of California system, and so if a deal was reached with another institution that is part of the system, Barron did not believe a request for proposals would have to be issued for a new fiscal agent. It has yet to be determined whether a new procurement process would have to play out, if the the next fiscal agent is not a UC institution, he said.

There will be no interruption of services or test administration for Smarter Balanced’s members, which include 15 member states, Barron added. Smarter Balanced’s member states are aware of the group’s search for a new fiscal agent, the spokesman said.

UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies will continue to work with Smarter Balanced through the transition to a new fiscal agent, university and the consortium said. Last fiscal year, UCLA was paid $385,000 by the consortium for its work as fiscal agent.

Under the existing agreement, UCLA has provided support for human resources, payroll, and overseen requests for proposals and contracts, among other duties.

The other major common-core testing consortium, PARCC, is also in a period of flux. ¬†As my colleague Catherine Gewertz reported recently, the organization’s governing board earlier this year put out a “request for information” asking for input on how it might reorganize itself to serve its member states.

A lot of folks in the testing and education world had opinions on the subject: PARCC received 128 pages of input.

Smarter Balanced has 30 employees who are part of its staff, all of whom are likely to move to the new fiscal agent, Barron said. Most of those staff telecommute, he added, so he did not believe the change will lead to disruptions.

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One thought on “Smarter Balanced Looking for New Fiscal Agent After UCLA Ends Agreement

  1. Sean – I don’t think that it’s appropriate to refer to something as a “common-core test.” SBAC produces a test with items that are aligned to the Common Core.

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