The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) has launched its Montana Alternative Student Testing (MAST) Pilot Program initiative to seek “through year” assessments as federally allowed by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015.

“Through Year” assessments are multiple statewide interim assessments during the course of the academic year that result in a single summative score (34 CFR 200.2(b)(10)(ii)).

The vision of the MAST Pilot is to implement “through year” assessments across the state that can eventually replace the traditional end-of-year state summative assessments and to satisfy the following federal testing, accountability, and reporting criteria under ESEA-ESSA:

  • State testing (ESEA-ESSA Section 1111(b)) measure student proficiency and progress on state content standards over time.
  • Accountability (ESEA-ESSA Section 1111(c)) address educational needs and direct resources.
  • Reporting (ESEA-ESSA Section 1111(h)) provide transparent information on these achievement indicators and to support education information processes.

To learn more about this initiative follow these links and to learn more about the OPI’s existing end-of-year state summative assessments, visit the OPI Statewide Testing Page.

We are here to help. Contact us.

OPI Assessment Team


Sharyl Allen: OPI

Courtney Stover: New Meridian

Scott Marion: Center for Assessment

Watch the recordings of the MAST webinars with the Center for Assessment and Montana Stakeholders.

MAST Webinars



Montana OPI Stakeholder Engagement

The state of Montana and the OPI are highly invested in stakeholder engagement. 

New Meridian and Education First Collaboration 

New Meridian and Education First are conducting assessment development through stakeholder input across the state. 

Parents and teachers are invited to contact the Montana Assessment Team if they are interested in participating in the assessment development process. 

In July of 2022, there will be an item writer workshop in the state of Montana in collaboration with other state participants in the CGSA grant. The item writer workshop will develop an assessment design for a through-course model. 

Center for Assessment Collaboration 

The Center for Assessment is working with stakeholders across the state of Montana through a number of webinars and an in-person conference in June of 2022.



Meeting Format

May 4, 2022

12:30 PM - 3:30 PM


June 1, 2022

10:00 AM - 1:00 PM


June 20, 2022

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

In Person, Location TBD

June 21, 2022

9:00 AM - 2:00 PM

In Person, Location TBD

July 6, 2022

9:00 AM - 1:00 PM



As needed.




The Montana OPI has received letters of support in recognition of these efforts from: 

Montana’s Competitive State Assessment Grant (CGSA) Application 

On February 16, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education released the notice inviting applications for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments (CGSA) program. The purpose of this program is to enhance the quality of assessment instruments and assessment systems used by States for measuring the academic achievement of elementary and secondary school students. It is authorized by section 1203(b)(1) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). 

This year’s competition includes two absolute priorities, one competitive preference priority and one invitational priority. Applicants must propose a project that address one of the absolute priorities. The two absolute priorities are: 

  • Absolute Priority 1: Measuring student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources. 
  • Absolute Priority 2: Evaluating student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments (such as performance and technology-based academic assessments, computer adaptive assessments, projects, or extended performance task assessments) that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model.


The Montana OPI has received letters of support in recognition of these efforts from: 

Pilot Design, Development, Delivery

The MAST Pilot Program is developing pathways to reform the traditional testing system while preserving local control and ensuring that the federally mandated summative assessments can both provide flexibility and meaningful, instructionally relevant data. 

The serendipitous alignment of goals with Education First, New Meridian, and the Federal Grant system has created a team of brilliant education specialists who are all aligned in improving the assessment system in our great state.

Stakeholder input is critical to the development of the “Through-Year Assessments” system. It is the duty and responsibility of the OPI to seek public input as the OPI exists to serve the Montana Community. With that in mind, the state of Montana has contracted with the Center for Assessment to develop a Theory of Action through input from Montana Administrators, Montanan Teachers, Montanan Students, Montanan Parents, and other Montanan Community Leaders. Visit the Theory of Action Math and ELA Task Force Google Site for more information.

SY2022-2023: Grades 5 and 7 Pilot

New Meridian will implement the MAST Pilot Program starting in the summer of 2022. New Meridian will assist the OPI with piloting the “Through Year Assessment” in Grades 5 and 7 during the 2022-2023 school year. 

This means the OPI intends to use Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment through the 2022-2023. It is the OPI’s responsibility to maintain the end-of-year state summative assessment that meets federal requirements until the OPI can demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Education that the system can be fully operationalized across all tested grades, students, and Montana schools.

Board of Public Education

OPI Priorities

  • Re-imagine the educational system to help each student reach their full educational potential. 
    • Support meaningful innovation in educational assessment through statewide assessments that are closer to the student and teacher and measure student growth over the course of the academic year (or within a year) to drive interventions and accelerate student learning.  
  • Create a system that is local-led not state driven. 
    • Empower districts to determine what tools are best to measure student learning. 
    • Allow districts to identify assessments that best serve their students [on an individual level] and help educators drive necessary supports and interventions.  
    • Grant local flexibility to provide more opportunities to focus on learning. 
  • Create a formative system structured to continuously improve teaching and learning and to inform education policy [ARM 10.56.101(2)]. 
    • Provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate knowledge and skills. 
    • Yield actionable feedback during the course of instruction to help adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies and improve students’ attainment of curricular learning goals. 
    • Allow students to have ownership and autonomy in their learning. 
  • Leverage what’s already in place to serve learning and teaching needs and fulfill state and federal reporting and accountability requirements. 
    • Provide an integrated approach to meeting both classroom learning needs and school and state level information needs [ARM 10.56.101(2)].  
  • Yield data that is actionable and timely to serve teaching and learning needs [ARM 10.56.101(2)]. 
    • Provide meaningful and transparent information on learning to students, parents, educators, and principals to understand and address the specific academic needs of students [34 CFR 200.8(a)(1)(ii)]. 
    • Provide parents and teachers information in an understandable format as soon as practicable after the assessment is given to ensure they have the best information to improve outcomes.  
  • Permit data collection that is closest to the classroom [student and teacher] to inform teaching and learning.  
    • Aggregate data up from 3 critical points in time across the school year [e.g., fall-winter-spring]. 
    • Accurately measure grade-level proficiency and progress within the academic year. 
    • Ensure multiple measures of proficiency so that no single data point serves as an indicator of student success.  
  • Ensure the assessments are time-limited to balance instructional time and the need to gather information about student learning.   
    • Districts are overburdened with assessments that don’t yield actionable data, whereas, the “through-year” model is more aligned to the data points that educators require to apply supports and interventions that can drive student learning.  
  • Maintain a commitment to ensuring all students are provided with high-quality access to educational services and needs. 
    • Data must support the mission of serving all students and directing resources where they are most needed.

Why Change the Current System?

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-Year Assessment” design. That is, rather than a single end-of-year assessment, the test will be broken up over the course of the academic year. 

A “Through-Year Assessment” 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 over the academic school year.