The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act provides much more lenience and autonomy for states to decide how to test their students. While it still requires testing students in reading or language arts annually in grades 3-8 and once in grades 10-12, it does not specify which assessment and allows states to choose a nationally-recognized assessment at the high school level.
After the widespread spring 2015 Smarter Balanced assessment complications, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau recognized and echoed the frustrations of many teachers related to the problematic rollout and administration of the tests and announced that the test would be optional for schools.
This set the stage for the Superintendent to replace Smarter Balanced at the high school level with the test all Montana juniors took anyway, the ACT. This assessment, given in April, has reading, English (grammar and usage), and writing components and suffices for the reporting requirements. ESSA highlighted and codified this approach.
In Montana, this shift will reduce the required testing time commitment for high school juniors from about six or eight hours for the Smarter Balanced, plus five hours for the ACT, down to just five hours for the ACT. The ACT has the added benefit of being used for college entrance.