Dear Montana School Superintendents:
The Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is reaching out to school districts to provide an update on the spring 2020 testing in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The OPI has requested state and federal testing, accountability, and reporting waivers to cancel the school district requirements for the below five statewide assessments so that you can focus on the health, safety, and core academic needs of your students.
- Smarter Balanced is the general math and reading/language arts assessment for academic achievement reporting in Grades 3–8.
- ACT with Writing is the general math, reading/language arts, and science assessment for academic achievement reporting in Grade 11.
- Multi-State Alternate Assessment is the alternate math and reading/language arts assessment for academic achievement reporting in Grades 3–8 and 11 for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
- Montana Science Assessment is the general science assessment for academic achievement reporting in Grades 5 and 8.
- Alternate Montana Science Assessment is the alternate science assessment for academic achievement reporting in Grades 5, 8, and 11 for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
On Thursday, March 26, the Board of Public Education (Board) voted to waive the ARM 10.56.102(3) state requirements this spring 2020 (see Board Meeting Minutes) and on Monday, March 30, the OPI was notified the federal waiver request under Section 8401 of ESEA was approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) (see the USED Waiver Granted Letter).
An alternative test opportunity has been approved for high school juniors who can’t test this spring as a result of COVID-19 school closures. As you well know, ACT serves a dual purpose, producing important assessment data as well as providing students with a college admission requirement at no cost to them, and we will continue to make test access a top priority. The OPI and the Office of Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) are pleased to announce a free, voluntary ACT test opportunity on October 6 for 2020 (additional dates are posted on the Assessment FAQ). OCHE is also exploring alternative college admission options within the Montana University System in light of the scheduling changes to the ACT assessment.
These 2020 waivers are important as they provide school districts with some relief and the ability to focus locally on the basic educational services and needs of the students. Waiving these testing requirements will have implications under the state Administrative Rules for Montana (ARM) Chapter 56 and 55 and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Therefore, OPI is seeking public comment on these approved waivers. Any comments on this waiver should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please feel free to contact us by phone at 1-844-867-2569 or email at OPIAssessmentHelpDesk@mt.gov if you have any questions regarding this announcement.
Thank you for putting your students first and allowing your students the opportunity to receive this free college admission exam on an alternative schedule that protects the health and safety of your schools and for providing the OPI with comment on these important 2020 waivers. We truly appreciate your tremendous leadership in these extraordinary times.
Elsie Arntzen, Superintendent of Public Instruction
Clay Christian, Commissioner of Higher Education