Tester wants to overhaul "No Child Left Behind"



GREAT FALLS – U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has introduced legislation aimed at reforming the No Child Left Behind law. NCLB, which went into effect in 2002, requires yearly language arts and math testing of public school students in grades three through eight, and again in high school.

Tester’s proposal is called the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act; click here to read the full text of it.

Tester said, “I got involved in public service because I wanted to make a difference. I want to make sure the world that I left was better than the one that we inherited. I have seen our education system from the perspective of a teacher, school board member, and parent – and also now as a grandparent.”

In a press conference on Tuesday, Tester says he’s heard from parents, teachers, and students who say the federal NCLB act isn’t working: “One of the main reasons it (the act) isn’t working is because of the annual testing requirements to measure student activity and teacher performance.”

Tester says the results of the annual testing requirements are teachers “teaching to the test” instead of writing their lesson plans based on the needs of their students: “Students shouldn’t spend most of their time in schools filling out bubbles; it’s not the kind of education that fosters creativity or critical thinking. They shouldn’t be learning for the test – they should be learning for life.”

Tester says that he wants to adopt a system that works for all involved in the classroom, and hopes to end federal annual testing and replace it with grade-span testing.

“As Congress looks to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year, I want to push my colleagues to adopt a testing system that works for students and teachers – while looking out for rural states,” he said.

The grade-span system will require students to have only one test in elementary school, only one test in middle school, and only one test in high school – instead of the federal government requiring students to test every year.

He says it’s about more than just saving money.

“Nationwide, the amount we spend is $1.7 billion dollars,” said Tester. “The most important thing here is not saving money, (but rather) having more classroom time and allowing the teachers to not teach the test but teach the needs of the students – and teach them how to think critically.”

Tester says state and municipal districts would still be able to structure their own requirements if need be: “The only ones we are impacting are federal testing requirements. They (Districts) can still structure requirements on individual district needs and student needs.”

For local and statewide testing, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing, those regulations and policies will remain in place.

“If it is a state regulation, or if it’s a state requirement – it is still in effect. If it’s a requirement that local school districts have decided to take on, it goes into effect,” said Tester. “From a federal level, the only requirement will be, when it comes to testing, is elementary, middle school, and high school – one test each.”

Monday afternoon, the Montana Republican Party responded to Tester’s bill: “This is quite the turnaround for Senator Tester because just a few weeks ago he rejected allowing Montana to opt-out of Common Core,” said Shane Scanlon, the Communications Director for the Montana Republican Party. “When Senator Tester voted to support Common Core he made it clear that he believes in President Obama’s government-mandated education curriculum and that Washington D.C. bureaucrats know what’s best for our students- not Montana families.”