In nearly all grade levels, Washington students’ performance on the new Common Core-based tests, called Smarter Balanced, surpassed their peers in the 14 other states that take those exams.

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In nearly all grade levels, Washington students’ performance on the new Common Core-based tests, called Smarter Balanced, surpassed their peers in the 14 other states that take those exams.

In math, for example, Washington students in grades three through eight posted the highest passing rate, except in grade seven, where they ranked second.

In English/language arts, Washington students in those grades ranked second except in fourth, where they were first.

Scores for 11th-grade students in Washington, however, ranked near or at the bottom of the 15 states, although high school juniors here might not have been motivated to do well because they don’t have to pass both tests in order to graduate until next year.

Officials with the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction compiled the data at the request of The Seattle Times, and with the exception of Montana and Oregon, the results include only students who took the tests. (In those two states, students who didn’t take the exams were given zero scores, which lowers their passage rates.)

But Washington officials were reluctant to compare this state’s performance to others, warning there are many reasons why one state may score higher than another.

“It’s one piece of the full picture,” said Deb Came, state assistant superintendent of assessment and student information.

“We don’t know how the Common Core and their own state standards have been implemented,” she added. “There’s a lot going on in the different states.”

That stance contradicts one of the main reasons states, heavily encouraged by the federal government, adopted the Common Core standards in the first place.

Rather than relying on a patchwork of academic expectations throughout the U.S., many states chose to use a very similar set of standards for reading and math — and common tests to assess whether students were meeting those standards. The idea was to help students compete in the national and international job market.

But the Common Core has been controversial, too. As of last spring, only about 20 of the 45 states that originally signed on to the Common Core planned to use one of the two national sets of tests that have been aligned to the standards, according to Education Week, a national newsweekly.

As for Smarter Balanced, spokesman Chris Barron echoed Came and cautioned against comparing states’ results.

“Comparing high-level proficiency scores doesn’t tell the entire story, such as different states with greatly different populations,” Barron wrote in an email, noting California and Oregon enroll different levels of students who have special needs, come from low-income households or are learning English.

Instead, Came highlighted data that show Washington students performed a little better on last spring’s state tests than they did in 2015, the first year the tests were given statewide.

That, she said, suggests students and teachers here have gained more familiarity with the new academic standards, and state officials cautiously expect scores to rise more next spring.

And, they say, there’s plenty of room to grow.

For as well as Washington appeared to do relative to other states, only about 50-60 percent of students are passing the Smarter Balanced tests in most grades.

“We are pleased with the success so far of our students (but) I would never want to rest on these laurels,” said Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the superintendent’s office.

“There’s still two out of five (students) not meeting standards,” he said.

Susan Nolen, an education professor at the University of Washington, said she expects 11th-grade scores to jump way up once the Smarter Balanced tests become a graduation requirement next year.

She also offered qualified praise for the overall results.

“These numbers look pretty encouraging,” Nolen said.

This story, originally published Friday, Dec. 2, has been corrected. In the original version, Deb Came’s name was misspelled.