College & Workforce Readiness

In Flap About ACT Score Reporting, Montana Orders Review

By Catherine Gewertz — January 31, 2017 1 min read
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On the heels of the discovery that Montana incorrectly reported its students’ ACT scores to the federal government, the state education department has hired a company to look into its policies and procedures.

Montana news media first reported that the department was under an “external investigation,” because the state’s new superintendent of education, Elsie Arntzen, said so during a meeting of school principals in Great Falls last week.

State officials disclosed that they were negotiating a contract with CMS Communication and Management Services, based in Helena, to investigate the submission of 2016 ACT scores to the U.S. Department of Education. But a top official at the company clarified that the company would be conducting “a workplace policy and procedure review,” not an investigation, according to the Billings Gazette.

The U.S. Department of Education confirmed that it has been discussing the matter with officials of the Montana Office of Public Instruction, but declined to say anything further, according to news reports.

The CMS review is a response to accusations Arntzen leveled against her predecessor, Denise Juneau, on Jan. 20. Arntzen said she had discovered through a “whistleblower” that Juneau had submitted “falsified” ACT scores to the U.S. Department of Education last December, just before Juneau left office.

Juneau told Education Week that she had submitted 3s—which indicate proficiency in Montana’s accountability system—to the federal government’s reporting system because it would not accept double-digit figures. ACT scores range from 1 to 36.

Juneau said the state had not figured out a way to convert ACT scores onto the state’s 1-through-4 proficiency system, so she submitted the scores as ACT delivered them, and figured they’d be discussed when the U.S. Department of Education received the scores. She also acknowledged that she had not mentioned the matter to Arntzen, or flagged it for the federal education department.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.