Student Participation & Eligibility

The OPI has prepared these student eligibility and participation guidelines to support education stakeholders and school partners with the requirements for participation in state assessments. These resources will assist System Test Coordinators (STCs), Authorized Representatives/Building Coordinators, and Test Administrators, Parents, and Students with the expectations for state assessments. The primary goal of participation is to ensure these data are representative so results are accurate and meaningful.

Administering the Montana Comprehensive Assessment System (MontCAS) state summative assessments is required under federal and state law. In Montana, the Board of Public Education adopts rules for state-level assessment in all public schools and accredited non-public schools.

IMPORTANT TESTING ALERTS: On April 6, 2021, the OPI received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education (Department) declining approval of the strategic waivers for testing, accountability, and reporting submitted on February 5, 2021. The OPI had proposed the option to the Department to allow local assessments (e.g., interims) and other measures of student learning and progress to provide information to parents and educators. The Department indicated the OPI had not demonstrated the specific circumstances that would warrant granting a waiver of the annual statewide assessment requirements and, specifically, not administering statewide assessments at all. On March 26, 2021, the OPI secured the accountability and reporting waivers offered by the Department under ESSA Section 1111(c)(4)(E). These flexibilities grant school districts relief from the “Academic Achievement Indicator” participation rate calculation on the 95 percent requirement within the federal accountability process and school identification. Under ESSA Section 1111(b)(2)(B), school districts should plan on providing students the opportunity to assess when it is safe to do so. However, no student is expected to be brought into in-person learning for the sole purpose of taking state assessments. The safety, health, and well-being of school staff and students is the number one priority this spring. The Montana Strategic Waiver Actions Timeline is a document that lists the activities since December 2020 to present on the OPI’s efforts to secure federal waivers on behalf of Montana school districts.



Training Supports

Below are three documents to assist STCs and School Principals with reporting non-participation as a result of medical reasons to the OPI:

References to state and federal participation laws:

  • MontCAS Policies and Procedures for Participation in State Assessments PowerPoint Slide Deck
  • MontCAS Test Security PowerPoint Slide Deck
  • MontCAS Test Security Portal - materials provided in this toolkit allow STCs (or presenters) to facilitate a training session so Test Administrators can be trained in Test Security for a standardized administration of the MontCAS assessments. 
  • Meaningful Participation in Statewide Assessments Training - This training focuses on increasing educator knowledge about federal requirements and options for participation in statewide assessments.



The restricted-use MontCAS Application allows school officials to report non-participation for proper identification within Montana's state accountability system and federal reporting.