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Oregon Sets its Own Course on Education Reform

Press Release

Location: Salem, OR

Oregon submitted its application to the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Under a provision of the Elementary and Second Education Act, states may seek a waiver from key provisions of NCLB in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.

Governor Kitzhaber praised this step to improve the state's public education system. "We have learned a lot from our decade-long experiment with No Child Left Behind, but the program has not given us the tools we need to make meaningful improvements to student achievement and performance. Oregon needs a home-grown alternative that builds on practices teachers and schools across Oregon are using to help students succeed."

Access full waiver application here

Oregon's waiver application proposes an accountability system that would replace NCLB's narrow focus on annual standardized tests and one-size-fits-all models for school improvement. If approved, school districts will set targets for student growth and college and career readiness in annual achievement compacts with the state's Oregon Education Investment Board. These achievement compacts form the backbone of the proposed accountability system, which would give individual school districts more freedom to meet goals using locally-tailored strategies.

This February, the Legislature will consider legislation that would require compacts between the OEIB and Oregon 197 school districts, its community colleges, and the university system.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo says the waiver reflects the changing landscapes of students and their needs in the classroom. "We've reached out to educators and asked which outcomes really matter -- how many kids are reading at grade level, graduating from high school, and individually showing improvement? The idea of setting a high bar and challenging our students is not new to our educators. This approach will give them enhanced tools and increased flexibility to achieve better results for students."

Oregon is one of 28 states expected to submit a waiver during this second round of applications. Eleven states submitted waiver requests during the first waiver application period last fall. Applications are peer reviewed before being evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education. Later this spring, Oregon expects to receive feedback from federal officials. If approved, the waiver's provisions would replace NCLB.

If Oregon does not receive the waiver from NCLB, next year, more than 800 schools across the state are projected to "not meet" Adequate Yearly Progress, and more than 250 Title I schools that receive federal anti-poverty funding are expected to fall under "Improvement Status." That means federal dollars would be funneled into prescriptive, one-size-fits-all interventions and sanctions. Under accountability measures in the proposed alternative, schools and districts that are not meeting expectations would participate in developing customized and collaborative strategies to overcome obstacles and improve outcomes for students.

"Our choice is clear," said Governor Kitzhaber. "We can stick with federal control and a punitive system that has not served our students or schools, or we can pursue an alternative that's authentic, that sets high but achievable learning objectives, and that is ultimately accountable to parents, educators, Oregon taxpayers, and, most importantly, to kids across the state."

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