HELENA – The Montana Office of Public Instruction has released the latest statewide testing results, and it appears students’ average scores haven’t changed much since previous years.
OPI released the 2018 scores from the ACT for high school juniors and the Smarter Balanced Assessment for students from third to eighth grade.
The average ACT composite score in 2018 was 19.56, down from 19.68 in 2017 and 20 in 2016. About one-third of students got a score of 22, which is required for admission to a four-year university in the Montana University System.
Smarter Balanced results show 50.5 % of Montana students were at or above proficiency in the English-Language Arts portion of the test. That was slightly higher than the 50.3% in 2017 and 50.1% in 2016. In math, 41.5% were at least proficient in 2018, compared to 41.2% and 41.8% in the preceding years.
In the Helena School District, the average ACT composite score was 20.68. On the Smarter Balanced test, 56.5% were proficient or better in English-Language Arts, and 48% were at least proficient in math.
Great Falls Public Schools students averaged a composite score of 19.47 on the ACT. 53.9% of students were at or above proficiency in English-Language Arts, and 45.6 were in math.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said she wants to improve partnerships with colleges and universities, so the state can better prepare students for higher education. She said she’s pleased with younger students’ results on the Smarter Balanced assessment, but that she wants to focus more attention on middle school. She said the transitional periods – the start of elementary school and the moves to middle school and high school – are especially important.
Arntzen also said she wants to reduce disparities in results for specific populations, like special education students and American Indian students.
“It does not matter where you are or who you are, that test should reflect your success and your abilities,” she said. “So we are focusing on how we administer tests, how we help train up teachers and districts.”
Arntzen said she doesn’t believe standardized test results give a full picture of how Montana students are learning.
“As a teacher, we assess students every single day; we make sure they know what they know,” she said. “There are other ways to do it besides just having an out-of-state vendor give us a test that’s required by the federal government.”
You can find full testing results from OPI, including information by school district and from previous years, at the agency’s website.
-Jonathon Ambarian reporting for MTN News