Montana Students to Take ACT, Not Smarter Balanced Exams

The ACT is commonly used as a college entrance exam or to gauge career readiness

By Dillon Tabish

BILLINGS — Montana juniors will now take the ACT as a statewide standardized test, replacing a days-long system that faced a number of difficulties in the past.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau announced Monday that the ACT would replace the Smarter Balanced exams, according to The Billings Gazette. All juniors already take the ACT. Juneau said the move will cut standardized testing time by two-thirds.

Some principals said the change is a welcome gift.

“I emailed our (district) testing guys, and I said ‘really, this is my Christmas present,'” said Skyview High Principal Deb Black of the change.

Black said she was happy that staff members who normally would have to spend hours administering tests over a period of several days can now return to their normal, on-on-one duties with students.

For students, the change will hopefully make the testing less of a drain, said West High Principal Dave Cobb.

“It’s going to have more relevance and more meaning to our students,” Cobb said. “The kids in Billings are taking the same ACT exam as the kids in New York City.”

The ACT is commonly used as a college entrance exam or to gauge career readiness. The test is not specifically aligned to Montana content standards adopted in 2011, but the test was changed in 2012 as many states adopted Common Core standards.

Tests like Smarter Balanced can affect schools or districts, but don’t affect individual students. Cobb said the fact that ACT scores can affect life after high school will be helpful.

The Smarter Balanced exams suffered technical glitches in the spring that may have compromised the validity of result.

“The Smarter Balanced exam, because of the problems that we have, I really feel like the kids have not taken the test as seriously,” Cobb said.


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