P.O. Box 202501 • Helena, MT 59620-2501
Putting Montana Students First
The Montana Alternative Student Testing (MAST) Pilot Program is
an initiative taken by the
Office of Public Instruction (OPI) to radically modernize,
improve, and ease federally mandated end-of-year student assessments. The
Federal Government requires that all school systems conduct student assessments
with a single massive end-of-year assessment which occurs each spring.
The MAST program is developing pathways to modernize the
traditional testing system while preserving local control, easing the burdens
on teachers and administrators, and ensuring that the federally mandated
summative assessment can provide both flexibility and actionable data. The OPI
is developing future pilots through contracts with New Meridian, the Center for
Assessment, and Education First. The goal of the MAST Program is to provide a
complete methodology for developing a summative assessment system more amenable
to our school system, and that will pass federal peer review.
The MAST program includes several phases of piloting, peer
review, analysis, and study. Ultimately, the program will develop a peer-reviewed
defensibility proposal for the Federal Government that will:
There are several pathways under investigation and development right now within the MAST program. These are the two primary pathways of development for the OPI at this time.
The current system of summative assessment is provided by Smarter Balanced systems and through a coalition of several states including Washington and California. The current system provides very little flexibility to teachers and requires a centralized top-down model of control. The summative assessment utilizes a single end-of-year assessment that does not accurately reflect student growth, and only marginally reflects the rich local cultures across our state.
The Montana OPI is working to develop an improved assessment system that will accurately reflect the needs of our students, teachers, and administrators while providing useful flexibility in terms of administration. The OPI will utilize a new assessment model that supports through-course test design. That is, rather than a single massive end-of-year test, the student assessment will be broken up over the course of the year. A through-course design benefits students, teachers, parents, and administrators by providing actionable data at the beginning of the school year and by providing a meaningful model of student growth. There is significant cultural variation in the state of Montana, therefore it is superior to utilize an assessment model that provides nuance rather than a single all-encompassing number at the end of the school year.