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Montana Seeks Waiver to Replace State Tests With Field Tests

Montana has submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education asking for approval of its plan to drop its statewide math and English/language arts testing in 2014 and instead have its students take the field tests being designed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The state's decision to seek "double-testing" flexibility (we prefer our own, jauntier name, "Flexitest," but it doesn't seem to have caught on yet) was announced today in a statement issued by Montana's superintendent of public instruction, Denise Juneau.

Montana is asking the Education Department to allow its students in grades 3-8 and 11 to take the Smarter Balanced field tests rather than the state's current tests in math and English/language arts.

You might remember that California sparked a big kerfuffle with the department when it unveiled plans to do something similar recently. Even a stern warning from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan—that the state might lose a chunk of its federal Title I money—hasn't stopped the Golden State; Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed the legislation that provides for the change. 

California's plan is to set aside most of its STAR testing system, and give the Smarter Balanced field tests instead. The part of the plan Duncan didn't like was that not every student would take a field test in both math and English/language arts; California students would take one or the other.  

In the guidance the federal department issued for states on the double-test waivers, officials made it clear that for a proposal to succeed, it would have to include students taking a full-length version of either a consortium field test or the state's current test in both subjects.

Juneau's letter to the department says Montana students will take full-form field tests in both subjects.

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