No Child Left Behind Act needs a makeover, Tester tells top education official

Expressing concern, Tester calls education law ‘unrealistic’ for Montana

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The No Child Left Behind Act will come under scrutiny when it comes to Congress for reauthorization later this year, Montana Senator Jon Tester told the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education this week.

Deputy Secretary Ray Simon oversees the overall vision for the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  Tester met with Simon in Washington to express his concerns over the controversial law, which requires all public schools, regardless of funding, to achieve strict benchmarks in order to qualify for federal financial help.  NCLB also requires students to pass assessment tests to measure the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) of each school.

"Too many good people are deciding not to become teachers because they have to spend so much time teaching how to take tests," Tester said. "We need to focus our nation's education on teaching our kids how to think critically, not how to take critical tests."

During his meeting Tester, a former teacher, demanded flexibility in NCLB's "high quality teacher" requirement, saying Montana already has a proven educator licensure program that places highly-qualified teachers in 99% of Montana classrooms.

He also shared his concern over the fact that attendance counts toward schools' AYP scores.  Penalizing a school if too many children are absent on days of assessment tests should not result in a failing AYP, Tester said.

NCLB requires school districts to accommodate a broader choice of public schools.  In rural Montana where schools are few and far between, that requirement is unrealistic and leaves many disadvantaged children in the dust, Tester said, adding the government should focus on improving failing schools rather than overwhelming achieving schools.

"The No Child Left Behind Act definitely needs a comprehensive makeover," Tester said. "Folks in Montana tell me that all the time.  It's laudable in concept, but much of it is unrealistic.  I look forward to designing a workable, realistic plan for all teachers and children in Montana and America."