FEATURE: The Case for CASE


By Brandt Redd, CTO, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and Greg Nadeau, Manager, Public Consulting Group

By the time most US K–12 students return to school at the end of this summer, a group of education and information-technology specialists from around the nation will have quietly laid a foundation for an important transformation in learning—what Google for Education executive Marc Sanz López calls “networked” or “adaptive” learning.

The innovation that enables this transition is called CASE®, which stands for Competencies and Academic Standards Exchange®™. CASE has been developed by IMS Global, a leading international technical standards collaborative for K–12 and higher education.

Throughout the United States, state education agencies (SEAs) have devoted intensive efforts over the last decade to answering a critical question in education: What should a student be expected to know in each subject area at the end of each grade level, and what does it mean to graduate with a diploma? 

Collectively, teachers and administrators across the nation have devoted thousands of hours to reviewing curriculum for alignment to standards or built out and shared open educational resources (OER), best practices in classroom instruction, personalized student learning strategies, and formative assessments to guide students to proficiency in state academic standards. Without CASE, standards are difficult to align and schools are often on their own when it comes to aligning curriculum to state expectations. Vendors and educators are left without guidance on how to reference any particular skill, standard, or competency.

In the existing ecosystem, most of the innovative thinking remains siloed within each of the 50 states’ educational systems, often in printed documents that cannot be searched online. A teacher in Indiana or a principal in New Mexico has no easy access to, or efficient way to find, the best lesson plans or assessment tools developed by their counterparts in Massachusetts, Iowa, or Colorado. The advent of the CASE standard paves the way for this type of collaboration and sharing of open education resources.  

Moreover, because so many states define similar concepts in slightly different ways, any attempt to aggregate available information from multiple states is like trying to combine pieces from 50 jigsaw puzzles into one coherent image. 

Think of it like the bank routing number on a check, but for learning. Without the bank routing system, we would have 15,000 separate banks instead of a single financial system. And that’s effectively what we have in education: 15,000 school districts, in 50 states, each with their own learning targets. CASE provides a new technical standard that brings together academic standards and competency frameworks. 

Adoption of this technical standard will enable curriculum developers and publishers, system vendors, and educators to create and align content to one set of state academic standards. Other states that use comparable standards can then search for and use those resources. As a result, educators across the nation will be able to share and reuse open and commercial educational resources effectively. This will better enable personalized learning solutions and will help educators discover and select the most relevant and helpful content to serve the individual learning goals of students. 

A bookshelf full of books takes the place f the screen in an open laptop computer.

“Imagine that you’d owned a single bookcase of books and you finally got your first municipal library card. Suddenly, instead of a hundred books, you can read and check out 100,000 books—that’s how revolutionary CASE will be for teachers, principals, and administrators across the country,” says Dr. Keith Osburn, Georgia’s Associate State Superintendent for Virtual Learning. “Instead of just having my state’s best thinking about how to help my students meet Georgia Standards of Excellence, I have 50 states’ best thinking.”CASE is like a Rosetta Stone that brings together, and makes universally available, 50 states’ thinking about reporting, tracking, prescriptive instruction, formative assessment, personalized instruction, summative assessment, and curriculum management and integration—all in one universally understandable and searchable data set.The power of CASE is realized when states adopt the standard and release official versions of their learning objectives in a machine-readable form. The lack of accessible, machine-readable state standards forces publishers and third-party vendors to interpret the published PDF files and turn them into data for use in instructional systems. Unfortunately, this has led to errors in interpretation and presentation of the standards. It has also caused confusion when different identifiers and coding schemes have been used to represent the same skill.Georgia is the first state to fully adopt the CASE standard and publish the Georgia Standards of Excellence in a machine-readable format. They view it not just as the adoption of a technical standard, but also as a mechanism to help them realize one of their strategic initiatives—the move toward personalized learning for every Georgia student.On May 21, IMS Global announced the launch of a 50-state CASE Registry. For CASE to function as planned, states must ensure that their state is correctly on-boarded to guarantee the highest possible level of trust. Additional links and resources: