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Some North Dakota high school students will be taking the ACT in lieu of the state assessment.

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction said Wednesday the U.S. Department of Education has granted the state's request for a testing waiver. Seventeen school districts indicated they will just be administering the ACT instead of a required state math and English test.

Baesler said some parents and teachers have expressed concern about the frequency of testing.

"Any time we can take fewer tests in high school, that means our students are spending more time learning in our classrooms, rather than being tested," she said.

North Dakota is the first state to obtain permission from the Department of Education for the testing waiver, according to Baesler.

The districts planning to use the ACT instead of the state assessment are Bismarck, Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Williston, Mandan, Wahpeton, Beulah, Dakota Prairie, Fordville-Lankin, Goodrich, Harvey, Larimore, Lidgerwood, Sargent Central, White Shield and Zeeland.

State and federal rules require that students take periodic assessment to measure proficiency in math, English and science. State law requires 11th-grade students take the tests. Without a testing waiver, North Dakota students take both the ACT and the North Dakota State Assessment during their junior year.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which was signed into law in 2015, allows local districts to use a nationally recognized test in place of a state assessment.

States looking to do so are required to get permission from the U.S. Department of Education.

The department originally denied North Dakota's request, stating the the state had not demonstrated that using the ACT would produce accountability results similar to the North Dakota State Assessment, according to the news release.

Baesler disputed the decision and said she received help from the state's delegation, as well as the chairs of the U.S. Senate and House education committees, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.

"This was a concerted effort on our part in North Dakota, at the Department of Public Instruction, to ensure that we as states were leading — for our schools and our districts and our students," she said. "This decision certainly gives more control to our local district leaders. They can work with their parents, their teachers and their students to make the best decisions for their students in their communities."

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or


Education and Health Reporter