The first-ever statewide computer-based standardized test is being postponed a week while the company providing the test makes sure everything is ready to go.
Allyson Hagen, communications director at the Montana Office of Public Instruction, confirmed the delay and said school officials were notified via email on Friday morning.
The tests were set to start next Tuesday but will be delayed until March 25, Hagen confirmed.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is a new standardized test that conforms to the Common Core Standards adopted by the state. The state is required to have the computerized testing in place by next year, but is choosing to do it this year instead.
In a previous interview with the IR, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau characterized this year’s test as a “dry run.”
Around the state, about 70,000 students in grades 3-8 and 11 will participate in a pilot program of the Smarter Balanced exam, which replaces the Montana Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT).
Field tests of new Common Core-aligned exams are being conducted around the country before the tests become official in 2015. But Montana is one of only a handful states to go “all in” by scrapping its existing assessment a year early and requiring all students to participate.
Smarter Balanced is one of two main assessments developed to accompany the new standards, though at least eight states that have adopted Common Core have elected to create their own exams. Twenty-two have signed on to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, including all states in the Northwest.
In Helena, the testing delay will only impact high school students, said Helena Public Schools superintendent Kent Kultgen.
The new start day comes during Helena’s spring break, Kultgen said. So all Helena students will now begin testing after spring break.
In the email sent to schools by OPI, the scheduling change is characterized as a precaution.
“This change is being made to ensure that Smarter Balanced has taken all the steps necessary for teachers, students, and administrators to have a productive experience with the Field Test,” the email reads. “This schedule change allows additional time to conduct the extensive testing necessary to ensure that the assessments work as intended and students receive the tools and supports to meet their individual needs.”