Tester Demands DeVos Listen to Montana Students, Teachers, Parents

Senator Wants More Local Control, Fewer Standardized Tests

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is holding Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos accountable to students, teachers, and educators to ensure Montanans have a say in education policies.

To cap off #PublicSchoolsWeek, Tester demanded an update on how DeVos’ Department of Education is implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a landmark bill to free public schools from the one-size-fits-all restrictions of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. Specifically, Tester wants answers about two important provisions he included in ESSA to guarantee local control and to reduce the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests.

“If implemented correctly, these two provisions can help achieve that goal of returning decision-making in education back to the folks who know our children best,”
Tester told DeVos.

The first of these provisions requires the U.S. Department of Education to solicit input from local parents, teachers, and administrators before developing any new rules or regulations.

“Previous administrations used No Child Left Behind to force unwanted rules and requirements on local schools, inhibiting their ability to serve their students as they saw fit,” Tester said. “That is why I included language in ESSA to make sure the Department of Education consults with local stakeholders like families, superintendents, and teachers before issuing any non-regulatory guidance.”

The second provision allows states to limit the amount of time students and teachers spend preparing for standardized tests, enabling local educators to tailor classroom instruction time to meet the needs of their students.

“Under No Child Left Behind, students spent far too much time preparing for and taking standardized tests instead of learning and developing important life skills,” Tester wrote. “Under ESSA, states can limit the amount of classroom time spent on tests and make sure it stays a small percentage of total classroom instruction time.”

Tester brought up these two specific provisions when he met with DeVos before her confirmation hearing last year. Now Tester wants to ensure DeVos is following through on her responsibility to Montana’s students, teachers, and administrators. In his letter, Tester asks DeVos to follow up on four specific action items:

1. What steps has the Department of Education has taken to implement these provisions?
2. How have you supported states that want to limit testing time, and what resources have you provided to help them do so?
3. To what extent has the Department consulted with local education stakeholders while implementing ESSA?
4. What steps have you taken to make sure that local voices have more say in determining the direction of our children’s education?

A former teacher and school board member, Tester is one of the Senate’s staunchest defenders of public education. In the past week alone he introduced two bills-the NURSE Act and the IDEA Full Funding Act-that invest in Montana’s public schools. He believes local control is critical to providing a quality education.

More on Tester’s support for public education can be found HERE.