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Montana Educators Cheer Passage of Bill to Replace No Child Left Behind

Montana education advocates celebrate passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. (jdurham/morguefile)
Montana education advocates celebrate passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. (jdurham/morguefile)
December 10, 2015

HELENA, Mont. - Montana education advocates are praising the passage on Wednesday of a bill to replace No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act sailed through the U.S. Senate in a landslide and is expected to be signed by President Obama.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester supported the bill, while Republican Steve Daines was one of just 12 senators to reject it. The bill transfers much of the policy-making power back to the states.

Eric Feaver, president of the Montana Education Association - Montana Federation of Teachers, says the focus on high-stakes testing was hurting the schools.

"We were measuring kids a lot but we weren't necessarily teaching kids a lot," he says. "And it did narrow the curriculum we saw music, art, P.E. and those things began to get kind of shoved to the side."

Feaver says Montana has diverged from other aspects of federal policy for years. For example, the state never used student test scores to evaluate teachers, it adopted Common Core on its own with a few changes, it never required teachers to have a degree in every subject they teach, and it didn't accept federal money to establish charter schools.

Feaver adds the demise of No Child Left Behind means more flexibility from onerous standards that went up every year and as such were impossible to achieve.

"We thought it was an abusive act to establish benchmarks for student performance that no school would ever reach," he says. "It effectively was an act of Congress that guaranteed everybody would fail."

The new law still requires math and reading tests every year from grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Feaver would like to see that reduced to once each in elementary school, middle school and high school.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT