Representative Dale Kildee has a terrific way of referencing the appropriate role for the federal government in education. He says that providing education is a state responsibility, a local function, and a federal interest. We appreciate the interest and assistance of our federal partners, but I will advocate for a federal role that is supportive of state efforts -- not one that attempts to control our important work - or that seeks to penalize our schools.
The federal government has instituted a strict accountability process for public education that relies solely on a single test score to measure a school's worth. We all understand that one test score does not paint the entire picture. We must find additional ways to determine quality and to promote the good things that are happening in our schools every day.
We must work to endorse changes to the law that provide flexibility for rural states like Montana so schools can get back to their job of educating the "whole student" -- including Montana's long tradition of arts and humanities. We need to vitalize our schools, ensuring that learning remain joyful, balanced, and works toward a sense of good citizenship, not just high math and reading achievement.
However, NCLB has also has shed light on achievement gaps between groups of students in our schools, and we must remain ever vigilant in our efforts to close those gaps through concentrated focus and support.