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Montana Hires Software Vendor to Personalize PD for Teachers

Partnership with ImpactEd for professional development software is the latest step in Montana’s ongoing plan to address low math and reading scores for elementary and middle school students.

A computer skills concept image of a person climbing a staircase toward a glowing laptop.
The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) has contracted with the ed-tech company ImpactEd for new professional development software in hopes of raising K-8 math and reading scores across the state.

A cohort of teachers will begin piloting ImpactEd’s PD2 (Personalized, Differentiated, Professional Development) technology on April 15, with a statewide rollout planned for this fall, according to a news release Thursday. PD2 allows teachers to personalize their professional development plans based on the specific needs of their classes or students.

State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen said only 37 percent of the state’s elementary and middle school students are proficient in math, and only 46 percent are proficient in reading.

“My office has focused on the basics through revising our state content standards, creating Math Innovation Zones, and reimagining student assessments through the MAST (Montana Alternative Student Testing) program,” she said in a public statement. “The partnership with ImpactEd is another opportunity for our teachers and schools to promote student success.”

MAST, announced in 2021, was a series of interim assessments at selected school districts, implemented as an alternative to federal testing, according to the state government website.

In an email to Government Technology, Arntzen noted that 11 schools across five districts are piloting PD2 for the remainder of this school year. The $190,000 cost for providing the tool to all schools through the end of the 2025-2026 academic year will be covered by the state, so local budgets will not be affected.

The news release said ImpactEd’s software has been found to improve student proficiency scores by up to 20 percent.

This is not Montana OPI’s first partnership with an ed-tech company to address elementary and middle school math and reading proficiency in recent months. In October, the state partnered with Discovery Education to provide the company’s DreamBox Math and DreamBox Reading Plus digital tools to 30,000 students in grades three through eight across 53 school districts.

The federally mandated state report card for Montana’s public school system indicated a 2 percent increase in math proficiency, from 35 percent to 37 percent, between 2022 and 2023, while the proficiency rate for reading remained flat at 46 percent, and science increased from 36 to 37 percent during the same time period, according to an April 4 news release. That data reflects average scores based on 401 school districts.

Montana’s report card also indicated a slight increase in per-pupil spending during that one-year period, from $13,209 to $13,346, while the on-time high school graduation rate decreased by one percentage point to 85 percent. The career and college readiness rate remained flat at 62 percent, according to the news release.
Aaron Gifford has several years of professional writing experience, primarily with daily newspapers and specialty publications in upstate New York. He attended the University at Buffalo and is based in Cazenovia, NY.