Montanans join Tester for meeting with U.S. Education Secretary

Principals, superintendents share concerns over No Child Left Behind Act

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Several Montana education leaders today joined Senator Jon Tester in his Washington office to discuss the future of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act with the nation's top education official.

Tester invited the principals and superintendents—all experienced administrators from various parts of Montana—to meet with U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

The Montanans who joined Tester for today's meeting were:

  • Dr.     Bruce Messinger, Helena       Schools     Superintendent/Montana Association of School Superintendents Federal     Relations Director.
  • Kathleen     Dent, Hamilton       School District     Principal/Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals     Federal Relations Director.
  • Larry     Crowder, Culbertson       School     Superintendent/Montana Association of Secondary School Principals     President.
  • Darrell     Rud, School Administrators of Montana Executive Director.
  • Bob     Moore, Manhattan High School Principal/Montana Association of Secondary School Principals       State Coordinator.

"Like most Montanans, I have serious problems with No Child Left Behind and I wanted Secretary Spellings to hear firsthand the concerns folks in Montana have," said Tester, a former Big Sandy elementary school teacher and school board chairman.  "We made it very clear to her that we agree no child should be left behind, but this law is leaving lots of schools in the dust."

President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law in 2001.  Many Montanans have criticized the federal law for setting across-the-board standards for students and teachers without regard to local needs or funding.  NCLB also requires adequate yearly progress testing which many people consider unrealistic.

"While the intention of No Child Left Behind may have been admirable, it doesn't work for Montana," Messinger said.  "NCLB ties the hands of those best suited to educate our children—their teachers.  We need to focus on teaching our children to be critical thinkers.  We don't do that by setting unrealistic standards.  We do that by engaging educators and local administrators, giving them the resources they need for their individual students."

Tester has long said that decisions about what's best for K-12 schools ought to be made at the local level.  He is acutely aware of the challenges that exist in public education in rural Montana and America.

"What works for schools in places like New Jersey and Detroit isn't always what's best for schools in places like Culbertson and Manhattan, Montana," Tester said.  "One size doesn't fit all.  I made it clear to Secretary Spellings that No Child Left Behind needs a serious overhaul before it has my support."

Montana's senior U.S. senator, Max Baucus, also has reservations about NCLB.

"When I talk with educators from Hamilton, Hardin, or Havre it's clear that No Child Left Behind is leaving many children behind," Baucus said.  "NCLB needs to be fixed to be more flexible, because urban schools that are bigger than many of our towns have different needs then our schools. Education is important and we must provide sufficient resources to prepare our children to be successful tomorrow – whether it's in Big Sky Country or the Big Apple."

During today's meeting, Tester and the Montana education leaders also told Spellings about their concerns about the challenges of Montana's sparsely populated schools and minority students.  They also discussed the difficulty in finding qualified educators in rural areas and updating the formula for Title I school funding.

The No Child Left Behind Act is due for reauthorization by Congress this year.