Federal Participation Requirement

The OPI administers all required grade/subject assessments in accordance with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The goal of ESEA is to provide federal funds to school districts to support learning for all students. ESEA was reauthorized in 2015 as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), affirming that all children should have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.

The OPI, in consultation with school districts, has implemented a set of high-quality, standards-aligned academic assessments under ESSA. School districts must annually administer the required statewide assessments in all core academic content areas and assess the language proficiency of identified English Learners (ELs) to receive federal money. The annual academic assessments serve learning by doing the following (ARM 10.56.101):

  • providing information about student achievement and growth to educators, families, students, and communities, and 
  • making sure students receive the support necessary to receive an equitable education. 

Read the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act

School Participation Requirement

ESSA mandates that the OPI, in consultation with school districts, implements a set of high-quality standards that are aligned to the state's academic assessments. In addition to the federal requirements, by the authority of §20-2-121(11), MCA and ARM 10.55.603, the Board of Public of Education (Board) adopts rules for statewide assessment in accredited public and nonpublic schools at the recommendation of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

OPI Suite of Required Statewide Assessments

Under federal and state testing requirements, the Montana Assessment Program addresses the vision of the ESSA while upholding the Principles of Assessment

This means the assessments:

  • provide information about students' knowledge and skills around Montana's standards to indicate student success and where to target resources
  • are aligned to Montana’s challenging college- and career-ready academic standards;
  • are high-quality and equitable for all students; and
  • are time-limited and part of the planned, coordinated, and coherent system of assessments.

The OPI statewide assessments are one of multiple measures within the balanced system of assessments available to LEAs. The required statewide assessments are an indicator at one point in time about student achievement and growth in relation to the standards.

Learn more about how the objectives relate to the ESSA and the OPI's accountability plan on the ESSA page and the Montana State Plan page.

AIM Student Participation and Registration

ESSA requires states to monitor academic performance and progress to ensure that all students, including children with disabilities, English Learners, and other historically under-served groups, graduate high school college- and career-ready. Federal and state assessments provide a way to make sure these requirements are met, and Montana's Achievement in Montana system (AIM) plays a part in providing this information.

The state and federal expectation is that all students participate in statewide assessments. In rare cases, student participation may not be possible due to an unexpected circumstance. For more information, visit the Inclusion Policy page.

The OPI has procedures in place for ensuring that each student is tested and counted in the calculation of participation rates for each state-required general and alternate assessment. Participation is included in the annual meaningful differentiation process for public schools, including each subgroup of students. Federal and state law require all students to participate or meet the federal reporting standard threshold.

For more information about student participation and registration, visit the AIM User Guides page.

For more information about the OPI systems in place for protecting data integrity and student privacy, visit the OPI Student Record Confidentiality page.

Inclusion Policy

Both ESSA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require that all students participate in statewide assessments. This includes all students who receive special education services no matter what their disability or level of service. All students, including students with IEPs, identified at the time of statewide testing as Limited English Proficient (LEP) must be accounted for when the assessment results are reported to the US Department of Education.

The Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) is designed to ensure that all students participate and are included to the fullest extent possible, while reducing variation in achievement reporting.

School personnel must follow both federal and state policies regarding student population that outline the following:

  • All students enrolled in Grades 3-8 are required to participate in the Smarter Balanced mathematics and English language arts (ELA) assessments except the following: Students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who meet the criteria for the Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA), which is approximately one percent or fewer of the entire student population.
  • English Learners must be evaluated using the ACCESS for ELLs screener to determine their participation in the required state English language proficiency assessment consistent with state and federal policy. If the student has been enrolled in a US School for less than twelve months, they have a one-time exemption from taking the required state ELA assessment.

OPI Student Record Confidentiality

The OPI has policies and procedures in place to protect the integrity and confidentiality of its test materials, test-related data, and personally identifiable information, specifically:

  • To protect the integrity of its test materials and related data in test development, administration, and storage and use of results;
  • To secure student-level assessment data and protect student privacy and confidentiality, including guidelines for districts and schools;
  • To protect personally identifiable information about any individual student in reporting, including defining the minimum number of students necessary to allow reporting of scores for all students and student groups.
 

Test Secure Handling Procedures

2018 Test Security Procedures & Guidelines - A guide for test security in regards to the MontCAS statewide assessments.

OPI Student Privacy web page

The OPI has established procedures and responsibilities under federal and state laws governing the access, use, and dissemination of confidential, sensitive, and/or restricted student information. The K-12 Data Task Force further advises the OPI on the use of data collection policies, practices and the use of data in schools.

Student Reporting Guidelines

On the OPI’s GEMS website there is information describing the OPI’s procedures for masking/cell suppression, reporting, and minimum counts for accountability.

Local Roles and Responsibilities for Test Security

For the OPI to meet the ESSA requirement of reporting results for students, schools, and districts (Section 1111(b)(2)(B)(v)(x)), steps are taken to ensure the security and confidentiality of the state test materials and provide appropriate training for personnel involved in testing.

These guidelines support the OPI’s Test Security Policies and Procedures:

Pre-Administration Test Security Procedures

Cleanup of Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE) user accounts will take place annually. Passwords will be reset for TIDE in September 2018. Information about this can be found on the Smarter Balanced Online Announcement Portal.

  • Review 2019 MontCAS Test Security Manual (Expected time: 30 mins).
  • Complete the annual online system test coordinator update in the OPI Central Data Update Form (Contacts) Application. To be completed by the authorized representative for the school system (Expected time: 10 mins).
  • Review local roles and responsibilities for School Principals and Authorized Representatives.
  • Review local roles and responsibilities for System Test Coordinators (STC).
  • Review local roles and responsibilities for Teachers and Test Administrators
  • Complete annual Test Security Agreements at the district, school, and test administrator level and maintain records of signed hard copies at the school system, as described on the School System Test Security Agreements Page.
  • Complete the online school system test security agreement assurance process through the secure Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) Application to be completed by the STC. The MontCAS Application is a restricted-use website that contains information on the state-mandated MontCAS summative assessments. STC uses this application to report many things to the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) including the affirmation of test security; the assessment dates for required MontCAS assessments; requests for the accommodation appeal process; reports of reasons for non-participation; and reports of any testing incidents.
  • Review the Documenting Local Test Security Procedures Page.
  • Review suggestions for a smooth testing process.
  • Participate in district training on Test Security, a PowerPoint presentation produced in 2015 that provides helpful information. (Expected time: 30 mins).
  • Verify training at local level using the Training Log
  • Ensure most current secure browser is installed on all computers being used for testing. Review the Secure Browser Installation Manual for assistance. (Expected time: 5 mins)

 

Pre-Administration Test Environment Procedures for Test Security

  • Remove materials from the room that are visible and may assist students in answering questions during the test.
  • Seat students so there is enough space between them to minimize distribution and the visibility of their answers.
  • Place the "Testing—Do Not Disturb" signage on entrances to prevent disruptions.

During-Administration Procedures in Test Security

  • Follow all guidance published by the OPI to ensure tests are administered in accordance with the standardized testing procedures, as outlined by the Test Administration Monitoring Checklist.
  • Record testing incidents locally on the Test Security Incident Log to maintain school records during the school year. Test Administrators (TAs) may download and use this optional template to log local test security incidents but must immediately notify the System Test Coordinator (STC) of all incidents in the local Test Security Incident Log. Note: This log is not official and it does not replace the required System Test Coordinator MontCAS Application reporting.
  • Report incidents to the STC so he or she may notify the OPI via the secure Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) Test Irregularity Reporting System.
  • Document incidents in the MontCAS Application. STCs are required to follow reporting times based on the degree of severity found in each Test Administration Manual. The MontCAS application collects data about any incident that happens during testing. (Expected time: 10 mins).
  • Provide a quiet environment which allows students to focus and concentrate on doing their best on the test with as few distractions as possible, according to the Ethical Testing Behavior Guidance.
  • Supervise students always to prevent prohibited access to unauthorized electronic devices, copying of answers, or other possible test security incidents, according to the Test Security Incident and Reporting Guidance.
  • Secure the room so students only have access to permitted resources and no unauthorized persons are in the room during testing. Only students who are testing can view items as outlined in Ethical Testing Behavior Guidance. (Expected time: 5 mins).
  • Setup testing only in the secure browser. Review the Secure Browser Installation Manual for assistance. (Expected time: 5 mins)

Post-Administration Procedures

  • Ensure there is no unauthorized access to student responses or notes on scratch paper.
  • Ensure there is no unauthorized viewing of test materials.
  • Avoid discussing or disclosing any test material information.
  • Ensure that no test material information including passages, prompts, items, stimuli, and tasks are used for instruction.
  • Destroy all secure test materials in accordance with the guidance published by the Office of Public Instruction.
  • Respond to a student crisis testing incident if notified about a case. The OPI collects student responses via its online testing platform and, in some rare cases, students submit potential crisis responses that are flagged for the OPI's review. The OPI responds to alert school staff about the crisis response for appropriate local response and action.

Local Roles and Responsibilities for Test Administration

For the OPI to meet the ESSA requirement of reporting results for students, schools, and districts (Section 1111(b)(2)(B)(v)(x)), steps are taken to ensure the security and confidentiality of the state test materials and provide appropriate training for personnel involved in testing.

These guidelines support the OPI’s Test Administration Policies and Procedures:

Pre-Administration Procedures in Test Administration

Note: The Test Administrator Certification is required to administer Smarter Balanced assessments. If districts are planning to do the training as a group, each user should log into their own account and complete the certification. The system will then automatically update the status to “TA Certified” and the user will be able to administer assessments.

 

Pre-Administration Procedures in Test Administration

  • Ensure the parent/guardian notification letter is sent home to parents at least one week before statewide testing to communicate the following (Expected time: 10 mins): 
    1. the purpose of statewide assessments, 
    2. the source of the requirement, 
    3. when performance information is provided to teachers and parents, 
    4. how teachers, principals, and district officials will use the student performance information,
    5. how parents can use that information to help their child.
  • Review Smarter Balanced Test Administration Manual (TAM). For 2019-2020, this manual provides information for Test Administrators (TAs) on procedural and policy guidance to prepare for and administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment in English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) and Mathematics.(Expected time: 30 mins).
  • Review the Smarter Quick Tips Scheduling Table. Make sure to establish and clearly communicate testing schedules with staff, parents, and students.
  • Report assessment dates through the secure Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) Application. System Test Coordinators (STC) use this application to report many things to the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) including the affirmation of test security; the assessment dates for required MontCAS assessments; requests for the accommodation appeal process; reports of reasons for non-participation; and reports of any testing incidents.
  • Provide students with opportunities to become familiar with the online tools by offering opportunities for them to practice with the online tools and test (see 2019-2020 Administering Practice Tests).
  • Review the TIDE User Guide. (Expected time: 30 mins).
  • Review the TA User Guidespecific to those procturing tests with the online test system (Expected time: 30 mins).

 

Pre-Administration Procedures in Test Administration Modules

During-Administration Procedures in Test Administration

  • Follow all guidance published by the OPI to ensure tests are administered in accordance with the standardized testing procedures. Refer to the Test Administration Checklist.
  • Follow the session script exactly. Do not alter or amend any sections and do not provide any unauthorized assistance on any sections of the test.
  • Maintain conditions for testing that are free from undue distractions and adhere to the guidance published by the OPI. Refer to the Standardized Testing Room Checklist.
  • Print Testing Tickets for students from the online TIDE portal.

Post-Administration Procedures for Test Administration

  • Destroy all secure test materials inaccordance with the guidance published by the OPI.

Local Roles and Responsibilities for Student Inclusion and Participation

For the OPI to meet the ESSA requirement of reporting results for students, schools, and districts (Section 1111(b)(2)(B)(v)(x)), steps are taken to ensure the security and confidentiality of the state test materials and provide appropriate training for personnel involved in testing.

These guidelines support the OPI’s Inclusion & Participation Policies and Procedures:

Pre-Administration Procedures in Student Inclusion and Participation

The expectation is that all students participate in statewide assessments. However, there are circumstances, such as a major medical event, that may make it impossible for a student to participate. In these rare cases, the district must report non-participation and the reason to the OPI using the Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) application. It is not allowable to exclude students based on expected performance, difficulty in administering the test, disability, or English learner (EL) status (see 20 U.S. Code § 1701—Equal Education Opportunity).

The OPI clearly and consistently communicates to districts and schools that it requires the inclusion of all students enrolled in accredited K-12 schools.

For students with disabilities

  • All students with disabilities must be included in the statewide assessment system to ensure students are provided with the special education and related services they require and are entitled to.

For English Learners

  • All ELs must be included in the statewide assessment system unless the OPI exempts a student from the language arts/literacy assessment who has been enrolled in the U.S. for less than 12 months. EL students must be assessed so they can participate in educational programs and services they are entitled to pursuant under 20 U.S. Code §1703(f).

Pre-Administration Procedures in Student Inclusion and Participation

  • Read and follow the 2019 Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodation Guidance to ensure all students are included in the assessment.
  • Familiarize yourself with the AIM Student Participation and Registration guide used by districts to verify enrollment records and student demographics, such as special education services.
  • View student information prior to testing to ensure that it is correct and that students receive the proper test with appropriate supports.
  • Read through the list of MontCAS non-participation codes and examples to acquaint yourself with rare, low incidence circumstances where students are unable to participate in the required statewide assessments.
  • Report requests for the appeal process and any non-participation reasons through the secure Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) Application. System Test Coordinators (STC) use this application to report many things to the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) including the affirmation of test security; the assessment dates for required MontCAS assessments; requests for the accommodation appeal process; reports of reasons for non-participation; and reports of any testing incidents.

During-Administration Procedures in Student Inclusion and Participation

  • Review students' demographics, test settings, and accommodations.
  • Review the TIDE Participation Reports. This guide describes how to access participation reports in TIDE. This is important to monitor testing progress and test completion rates.

Post-Administration Procedures in Student Inclusion and Participation

  • Destroy all secure test materials in accordance with the guidance published by the Office of Public Instruction.

Local Roles and Responsibilities for Data Quality and Assurance

For the OPI to meet the ESSA requirement of reporting results for students, schools, and districts (Section 1111(b)(2)(B)(v)(x)), steps are taken to ensure the security and confidentiality of the state test materials and provide appropriate training for personnel involved in testing.

 These guidelines are supported by the OPI’s Inclusion and Participation Policies and Procedures:

Pre-Administration Procedures in Data Quality

During-Administration Procedures in Data Quality

  • Manage student demographic information and report any inaccuracies in the information sent to the OPI. The demographics panel includes enrolled grade, name (last, first, and middle initial), state unique identifier, date of birth, gender, section 504 status, primary disability type, ethnicity, English language proficiency level, and migrant status.
  • Manage student test settings and tools information. The test settings and tools panel includes usability, accessibility, and accommodation testing supports.
  • Start the test session, approve tests for students to take, monitor testing progress, and review completion reports to be completed by the TAs.
  • Monitor testing progress during the testing window and ensure that all students participate, as appropriate. (Expected time: 30 mins)
  • Verify the opportunity statuses are accurate to ensure all students’ tests are considered complete for accountability and reporting purposes.
  • Manage and report appeals for the timely approval by the OPI.
  • Record testing incidents on the Test Security Incident Log. Test administrators may download and use this template to log all test security incidents that occur during test administration.

Post-Administration Procedures in Data Quality

  • Confirm test irregularities immediately or following the MontCAS Test Security Manual reporting time periods by test incident severity.
  • Reconcile non-participation at the end of the test window in the Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) Application.
  • Reconcile student information in the data quality in Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE) at the end of the test window.
  • Watch the Online Reporting System (ORS) Module. This module provides an overview of how to navigate the ORS, including participation and score reports. Note: the ORS is intended for schools to examine the results of individual students whereas the official participation and reporting for accountability is released through the GEMS web site in late August. (Expected time: 11 mins)
  • Report incidents through the secure Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) Application. System Test Coordinators (STC) use this application to report many things to the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) including the affirmation of test security; the assessment dates for required MontCAS assessments; requests for the accommodation appeal process; reports of reasons for non-participation; and reports of any testing incidents.

Information on Validity and Reliability of Assessment

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium: Assessment Development and Design 

  • Blueprint and Assessment Development - Content Specifications
  • Item Development - Item Specifications
  • Item Development Involvement
  • Item Reviews - Content, Bias and Sensitivity Reviews
  • Standards-Setting Procedures
  • Achievement Level Process