Juneau, Baucus, Tester Secure Testing Flexibility for Montana Schools


Tuesday, November 5, 2013
By Allyson Hagen
406-444-3160

Juneau, Baucus, Tester Secure Testing Flexibility for Montana Schools
Montana Gets Green Light on Testing Waiver from the U.S. Dept. of Education

Helena, MT – Today, Superintendent Denise Juneau and U.S. Sens. Baucus and Tester announced the Office of Public Instruction has been granted a testing waiver from the U.S. Department of Education in order to avoid double-testing of Montana students this school year and to allow schools to smoothly transition to a new statewide assessment in 2015. Montana is the first state to receive a testing waiver from the U.S. Department of Education following the release of their waiver application guidelines in September.

"I am very pleased with the quick turnaround on this request,” said Superintendent Juneau.  “Now we can focus on informing schools and parents about the changes in testing this year and prepare for the new statewide assessment in 2015. Avoiding double-testing of students this spring and providing our schools with the opportunity to make a smooth transition to our new, online assessment is the right thing to do for Montana students.”

Baucus and Tester sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education supporting the waiver and urging the Department to move quickly to approve Montana’s request.

“Montana students should be tested on what they are being taught, not outdated mandates.  This waiver will save valuable time in the classroom and give our teachers the flexibility they need to do what’s best for Montana students,” Baucus said.

“Montana’s hard-working students are our next generation of leaders, and we need to make sure they are getting the education they need to succeed,” Tester said.  “Eliminating double-testing will help our students and teachers focus on the lessons and skills that will prepare students for good jobs that strengthen our state’s economy.”

Juneau received support for the waiver request from Montana School Boards Association, School Administrators of Montana, MEA-MFT, Montana Association of School Business Officers, and Montana Rural Education Association. Additionally, the Office of Public Instruction received more than 350 comments in support of the waiver request from across the state. Support came from superintendents, principals, school counselors, teachers, school board members, testing coordinators, technology specialists and members of the public.

Juneau’s request outlines the following:

* All Montana students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 will take the full form Smarter Balanced (SBAC) field test with the exception of qualifying students with disabilities, who will take the CRT Alternate assessment.

* The current Science CRT assessment and Science CRT Alternate will continue to be given to grades 4, 8, and 10.

* AYP determinations from 2013 will roll forward for 2014.

* In the 2014-2015 school year, the new Smarter Balanced assessment as well as the state science assessment will be given to all required grades and be used to determine Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for all schools.

A copy of Superintendent Juneau's official testing waiver request can be found here: http://opi.mt.gov/PDF/Supt/Dept_of_Ed/OfficialWaiverRequestMT.pdf.

For a copy of the testing waiver approval letter from the U.S. Department of Education, go to:
http://opi.mt.gov/PDF/Supt/13_11-04MT-TitleI-PartA-waiver-letter-on-double-testing.pdf.

Background:
In November 2011, the Montana Board of Public Education adopted the Montana Common Core Standards, replacing our previous English Language Arts and mathematics standards. The new standards are higher and clearer than Montana’s previous standards and are focused on developing critical thinking skills and applying what students are learning to the real world.

These standards are officially being implemented across the state this school year. In order to measure how Montana students are meeting the new standards, Montana has joined with 24 states in developing assessments with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Smarter Balanced is developing a computer adaptive year-end assessment where each student’s test is customized based on his or her performance throughout the test. The new assessment will be used for state and federal accountability purposes beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

About Smarter Balanced:
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) is a state-led consortium working to develop next-generation assessments that accurately measure student progress toward college- and career-readiness. Smarter Balanced is one of two multistate consortia awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop an assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by the 2014-15 school year.

For more information about Smarter Balanced, go to: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/.

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