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Montana Schools Move ACT Testing Online

Montana has replaced the old bubble sheets with an online version of the ACT, which students may take on school-approved devices under supervision, allowing for greater flexibility with scheduling.

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The state of Montana has moved its ACT testing to an online format while preserving paper test options for any districts that might have connectivity issues or security concerns.

According to a news release, the first online tests in Montana began March 28, and the final test date for the 2022-2023 academic year is May 4. Brian O'Leary, communications director for the Montana Office of Public Instruction, said students may take the tests using school-issued, or at least school-approved, secure web browsers in school buildings. Remote testing is not allowed, and the test sites must be authorized by an ACT testing administrator. He said no connectivity issues have been reported anywhere in the state so far.

“The move to online testing creates more flexibility with scheduling and test makeups within the school administration,” O’Leary said in an email Tuesday to Government Technology. He added that 3,370 students in the state have taken the ACT test since March 28.

Typically taken by high school juniors, the ACT is a standardized college-readiness assessment for math, science and English language arts that historically has been part of college admittance criteria, though many colleges and universities across the nation have waived the ACT requirement.

In a public statement, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen stressed the importance of testing as an accountability measure.

“As I’ve said many times, Montana must get back to the basics of math and reading so that our students can achieve educational excellence and be college ready,” Arntzen's statement read. “One of my top initiatives, Montana Ready, focuses on preparing our students for college and career readiness. Teaching and learning must be recognized at the point when our students are tested ... ”

According to the news release, the Montana Office of Public Instruction piloted the online ACT last year, with 541 students taking the test online compared to 8,893 students completing it on paper. In every subject area, the average score for Montana students was below the ACT College Readiness Benchmark, or the minimum score “required for students to have a reasonable chance of success in first-year credit-bearing college courses at the typical college.” The biggest gap was in science, where the Montana average score was listed at 19 (out of a total of 36 points) compared to the ACT college readiness score of 23.