Montana Seeks Testing Waiver from the U.S. Department of Education

Thursday, October 3, 2013
By Allyson Hagen



Montana Seeks Testing Waiver from the U.S. Department of Education
Education Leaders Support Juneau's Request

Helena, MT – Today, Superintendent Denise Juneau announced the Office of Public Instruction has submitted a testing waiver request to 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.

"As we move forward with implementing new, higher English and math standards, it makes no sense to test our students on standards that are no longer being taught in the classroom,” said Superintendent Denise Juneau.  “Additionally, with the move from paper and pencil to online tests, this school year provides us with an opportunity to assess our technology readiness and prepare for the official rollout of the new state assessment in 2015.”

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.

Juneau has spent the past several months seeking input from school leaders and educators regarding the testing waiver option, including representatives from Montana School Boards Association, School Administrators of Montana, MEA-MFT, the Montana Board of Public Education, Montana Association of School Business Officers, and Montana Rural Education Association. Education leaders repeatedly expressed their support for Superintendent Juneau’s request to allow Montana’s public schools to transition into the new statewide assessment without double-testing students.

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.

The Office of Public Instruction has 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. Letters of support were submitted from every corner of the state and from every size of school. Montana’s Senators Baucus and Tester added their support, advocating the U.S. Department of Education prioritize and grant Montana’s testing waiver request.

Continued Juneau, “From the East to the West, from teachers to school board members, Montana is ready to move forward with the new assessment and not double-test our students this year. This is the right decision for Montana students, and we will be pushing the U.S. Department of Education to grant us this waiver as soon as possible.”

A copy of Superintendent Juneau's official testing waiver request can be found here:

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. The work of Smarter Balanced is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help students succeed—regardless of disability, language, or background.

For more information about Smarter Balanced, go to:


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