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Montana Wins Federal Waiver for Testing Flexibility

Montana appears to have become the first state to win a testing-flexibility waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. State officials have just announced that Montana has gotten permission to replace its large-scale assessments this spring with the field tests being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two state coalitions development exams aligned with the comon core.

As we recently reported to you, Montana submitted its application to the department last month. Unlike California, which drew the ire of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for its own approach to such flexibility, Montana plans to give the SBAC field test in both mathematics and English/language arts to all students in grades 3-8 and 11. (In California, students will take the field test in either math or English/language arts, but not both.)

As some readers may be aware, the federal Education Department has offered states the chance to apply for "double-testing flexibility," to avoid overburdening students with both their own state tests and the field tests administered by Smarter Balanced and the other state assessment consortium, PARCC.

While Montana's students will take the Smarter Balanced field tests in math and English/language arts, they'll still take the state's current science tests. Montana schools will retain their current accountability designations for one more year.

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