On Tuesday, State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen announced that Montana is initiating a new student growth assessment pilot. The Montana Alternative Student Testing Pilot Program is a partnership with participating school districts and MetaMetrics, Inc. It is overseen by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

“What is exciting about this is it gives choice into assessment rather than saying it is a federally mandated test that is required by the federal government,” Arntzen said. “I still do that, but I don’t give another test. I take a test away. The test that is closest to the teacher and closest to the student is what is being validated for the state of Montana.”

According to Arntzen, Montana is the first state in the nation to undertake a study like this.

“It is innovative,” Arntzen said. “We are going to ask the federal government in February if we can be part of an innovation demonstration program. Only seven states have been authorized to be able to do this. We have tp put in a lot of documentation to be able to get a yes from the federal government, but it is the right thing to do because it talks about growth in math and reading. It allows choice of the school district and that local trustee to be able to say that we trust what is happening in that classroom.”

Arntzen said the MAST Pilot Program is an opportunity for Montana to re-imagine student assessment using tools at the local level that are closer to the teacher and student.

“It is going to be used as a tool for teachers,” Arntzen said. “It is not an added test. It is the test that they already use in their classrooms. It is going to be a test that is going to show that student ownership that I succeeded in the fall, I am succeeding now in the winter and in the spring time at the same time. I am not going to have that out of touch, one size fits all, federally mandated test.”

Arntzen emphasized that federally mandated tests do not accurately reflect student learning and growth in a timely or meaningful manner. At this time, 30 school districts have committed to participating in the MAST Pilot Program.

The MAST Pilot Project timeline is:

  • Phase I: (2021-2022):   School district partnership and data acquisition
  • Phase II: (2022-2023):  Support for federal defensibility
  • Planned implementation in (2023-2024) or (2024-2025) of less restrictive interim testing requirements for districts

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