Tester pushes overhaul of No Child Left Behind testing policy

Senator introduces bill favoring grade span testing over yearly testing

(U.S. Senate) – After hearing directly from Montanans that annual federal testing is robbing students of a high-quality education, Senator Jon Tester is pushing Congress to let teachers teach and let students learn.

Tester, a former public school teacher, today introduced a bill to remove the annual testing requirement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and replace it with fewer federal tests.

NCLB, which went into effect in 2002, requires yearly Language Arts and Math testing of public school students in grades three through eight, and once in high school. Before NCLB, schools were required to test once in elementary, middle and high school.

Tester argued that annual federal testing eats up valuable classroom time and requires teachers to ‘teach to the test,’ instead of tailoring their lesson plans to the individual needs of their students.

“Students shouldn’t be spending most of their time in school filling out bubbles, Tester said. “That’s not the kind of education that fosters critical thinking or creativity. Students shouldn’t be learning for the test, they should be learning for life.”

The need to adopt grade span testing was brought to Tester’s attention by Missoula Education Association President and teacher Melanie Charlson.

“As a 25-year veteran educator who taught prior and post NCLB, I find Senator Tester’s bill a welcome relief to the senseless Test Stress classroom educators and students have endured for 15 years,” Charlson said. “The instructional time lost to expensive, mandatory tests is shameful. Returning to grade span testing is a reasonable solution. Time to actually teach to each students needs will be allowed. I applaud Senator Tester for his action in correcting the NCLB debacle.”

Tester’s bill comes as Congress prepares to debate reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and is supported by School Administrators of Montana (SAM) and the National Education Association (NEA).

“SAM believes that any mandated programs of testing must be fully funded and include fully funded research-based intervention programs that help students reach benchmarks,” said SAM executive director Kirk Miller. “With that, SAM supports Senator Tester’s bill for grade band testing using student growth over a period of time to be measured and returning the use of the testing data to local school districts for improving instruction and raising student achievement.”

“We commend Sen. Tester for stepping up and speaking out for kids with the introduction of this very important legislation,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said. “The Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act recognizes the growing problem with too much testing and proactively putting forward a commonsense proposal that would again allow educators to inspire students and their natural curiosity, imagination, and desire to learn.”

Tester’s Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act is available online HERE.