BILLINGS — The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is looking for a waiver for federally mandated state standardized tests due to changes in schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every year, the state tests students in math, reading and science.
"We have already secured a wavier for science," said Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. "The waiver that I'm asking for at this point is from third grade to eighth grade. And that's in math and in reading. This is also for our special needs students. And then I'm also asking for a waiver with the ACT, and the ACT is where our 11th graders, take the test."
Arntzen has asked for the waiver because she says results can not be compared with past years since many are taking online classes and are not at schools.
"The efficacy of the test at the kitchen table would test security," she said. "And making sure that the data that is gathered off the test has a meaningful input into instruction."
Montana received a waiver on the tests last school year.
"Before [US] Secretary [of Education Betsy] Devos went ahead and agreed to it, I asked that of her," Arntzen said. "And she agreed. As a result, all the states did not have to take that test."
Arntzen also says that missing a year has affected the assessments.
"The data chain is broken," Arntzen said "We have to begin again. I do not believe this is the year to have a baseline test to start again."
The superintendent said without federally mandated tests, there will be local assessments and accountability.
"This is a great opportunity," Arntzen said. "We're not maverick here by any means. But I do believe that we recognize what's best and what's important to our students. And that local control which is so important."
Arntzen sent the science waiver request on Nov. 13 and will send the reading and math waiver requests on Feb. 5.
The OPI will hold a data and assessment virtual conference on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29.
Arntzen will be sworn in on Monday for her second term by Yellowstone County District Court Judge Mary Jane Knisely.