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Montana test scores show students lack proficiency in math and reading

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Posted at 12:02 AM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 12:10:54-04

Report cards are in for Montana students.

Eleventh graders are showing some improvement in both math and reading.

For third through eighth grade, a third of students are proficient in math and less than half are at grade level in reading.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) says that test scores are down for reading and math in grades three through eight.

Test scores improved slightly in reading and dipped a bit of math for elementary and middle school students.

It's been a trend of decreasing scores, according to the OPI, and one the office would like to see fixed.

Parents at McKinley Elementary School in Billings say that test scores are up for their children, and they're happy with what's happening in reading and math for their kids.

"There's always room for improvement, but I feel like Miss Trahan is making sure that our kids are not falling through the cracks," said Jennfier Aleksich, who has a child at McKinley.

"My daughter goes to school here. She's a third grader," said Wendy Graham. "Her score is really good still. Her principal here is amazing."

Principal Nicole Trahan was not available for an on-camera interview but says the school uses critical concepts, studies the data, provides 30 minutes of enrichment every day and looks to master grade standards.

"Those kids are getting what they need, and paying attention to what they need," Aleksich said.

"You can come in it's like 30 minutes, two times a week, and they got free tutoring all summer long," Graham said.

Those numbers for grades 3-8 show 45% proficiency in reading 37.5% and math, which is similar to last year.

"I'm not happy with that," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Artzen, a Republican. "I know classroom teachers aren't satisfied and I know parents, and students aren't satisfied with that."

English Language Arts proficiency is a little more than 53% for juniors taking the AC T and at about 30% in math.

Arntzen says COVID affected younger kids, while older students were better able to adjust to going into high school.

However, she still believes all of the scores can improve.

"It's been a trend, pre-pandemic to even now, accelerated to where we are," Arntzen said. "Something is happening from fifth grade to eighth grade in math, specifically."

Arntzen also attributes low scores to the test and says Montana has a pilot program of shorter tests five times during the school year instead of one long test at the end.

And there's more to achieving better proficiency for students.

"We're really focusing on what should we be taught," Arntzen said. "When should it be taught? How should it be taught?"