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Montana Schools Superintendent Requests New Assessment Tests

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Montana Public Schools is asking the federal government to have one standardized test given to students each year to assess their yearly progress.

The No Child Left Behind test is a pen and paper standardized test given to students each year. This year, the federal government's goal for students is to have 100% of students to be proficient in reading and math. But, some schools says that is an unrealistic goal.

"For some students who struggle with emotional challenges or who have suffered learning disabilities, it's going to be difficult for them to achieve those targets," said Mark Halgren, Belgrade Schools Curriculum Director.

Montana Schools Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau wants the assessment testing progress to use a new test called the Smarter Balance test. She said the new testing will comply with their new school standards.

"It would be content that teachers aren't teaching this year and that students aren't learning," said Juneau. "We want to make sure that we're moving forward measuring the standards that the state has rather than old ones."

She says it seems like the perfect time to change up their assessment testing.

"It seems like a really good year to sort of move forward with the new assessment and work out all the bugs that might need to be worked out,"said Juneau.

The Smarter Balance testing would be a computer based testing that would test students ability to use information in different context rather than recall information and Belgrade Schools is on board.

"We feel like it's more closely tied to the standards. We feel like it's more realistic and that it will prepare our students to be more prepared for the job market and college education," said Halgren.

Halgren said it doesn't make any sense to test students using the old standards.

"Our time would be spent better teaching our students then to accessing them twice," said Halgren.

Juneau hopes to know by November whether or not the Smarter Balance will be given to students this Spring.

This year, the No Child Left Behind standards required students to have 95% proficiency rate in reading and 90% rate in math. In Gallatin County, 20 schools did meet those standards. Three of those schools were in Belgrade Public Schools and eight were in Bozeman.

In Silver-Bow county, nine schools did not meet standards. In Flathead county, 30 schools did not meet those standards. In Missoula county, 31 schools did not meet those standards.

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