Montana’s reading scores fall; OPI says “We have work to do”

Posted at 12:39 PM, Apr 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-11 14:39:49-04

HELENA – The nation got its report card Tuesday for student testing and Montana didn’t do well in reading.

Eighth-grade students in the state saw a decline in reading scores from 2015 to 2017, and Montana is the only state in the country to see a decrease in these test scores.

Last year’s test score is the lowest the state has received since 1998.

“That means we have work to do,” said Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

But Montana’s average eighth-grade student score of 267 is slightly above the national average of 265.

Meanwhile, the percentage of eighth-grade students in the state who performed at or above the "basic" reading level is at the lowest since 1998.

But Arntzen said she believes one test score doesn’t provide the full picture.

“An assessment is just that, they test a small portion of a window of that entire school year, and what that individual has learned. I don’t want to rely so much on that testing, federal mandate says I must, but in Montana, we know better. School is done in a classroom, with a teacher and parent. That’s what we do in Montana, and we’re going to strive to do better,” she said.

The Nation’s Report Card looked at fourth-grade reading and math scores as well. The results showed no significant change in either subjects for Montana fourth-grade students. 

According to the report, 38 percent of Montana’s fourth-grade students tested at or above proficient in reading while 41 percent are at or above proficient in math.

Arntzen said the state received a three-year, $24 million Federal Literacy Grant, which she said will help improve reading and writing skills in our schools.

“So our students are pretty much adept to that, but there’s a lot more to learn – how to maneuver a mouse, how to type a paragraph if you have an inquiry question,” Arntzen said. “So there’s a lot that we can learn doing digital, that’s how that grant is going to help.”