Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Each year the state of Montana is required to release public school report card data, and OPI Superintendent Elsie Arntzen released those numbers this week.

Overall, math proficiency was at 37 percent for 2023, a slight improvement from 2022 at 36 percent proficiency.

I spoke with Arntzen on Friday about the report, and she was not happy with the results from what she called a 'one-size-fits-all’ test.

37 Percent of Montana Students Tested Proficient in Math and Science in 2023

“37 percent proficient in math and science, which means they got a ‘C’ or better on this one size fits all test,” began Arntzen. “In reading it's 46 percent proficiency, the same as it was last year. In science, we had a 1 percent uptick at 37 percent proficiency. (that’s why) we're changing the way that students are being tested because I think that the ‘one size fits all’ test just doesn't show the success of a teacher in a classroom.”

Arntzen, who is finishing up her final year of her second term as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said one of the problems is the number of distractions faced by kids in school, and she also called out how teachers are trained.

46 Percent of Montana Students were Proficient in Reading

“(We need) more emphasis on those basics,” she said. “I think there are a lot of distractions in our public schools right now. We need to make sure that the basics of math, reading, and science are emphasized. We are doing that at the state level by refurbishing our state standards in math, reading, and science, plus also talking to our university system, asking that when teachers come out of the university system, they are prepared to be able to teach those basic subjects.”

Arntzen also pointed out that nearly one-fourth of Montana’s public schools only teach four days a week.

“The other thing I want to say is we have 117 districts out of the 401 that have four-day school weeks now, and we know this is trending up. So that four-day school week will have an impact on how students learn because it's a different pattern of time of when children come to school, and what they do on that fifth day.”

Arntzen Called on Parents to Help Their Children with Schoolwork

Arntzen also called out parents and extended family members to help students with their studies, not just during the school year, but during vacation time, as well.

“Learning doesn't have to take place in a brick-and-mortar school,” she said. In certain months of the school year, that acceleration of learning can take place anywhere. You talked about the extended family and that is so important. We all learn in different ways and in with different interests, and I believe families are the ones that can really engage the students.”

Arntzen also called out parents and families to cut down the number of hours their children spend on screen time with phones and social media and increase their time reading.

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Read the State Report Card here.

Overall, Montana students were only 37 percent proficient in math and science, while 46 percent were proficient in reading.

Which states scored highest in math proficiency? According to Forbes, the top performers were in Massachusetts at 42.9 percent, Utah also at 42.9 percent and New Jersey at 39.4 percent.

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