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Oregon Delegation Backs Re-Write Of No Child Left Behind

The U.S. House approved a major overhaul of federal education law Wednesday.

House members voted 359-64 to replace No Child Left Behind, including a unanimous "yes" vote from all five members of Oregon's congressional delegation.

 Many educators and lawmakers had grown tired of that law's sanctions on schools with low test scores. No Child Left Behind required schools to get a rising share of students from every demographic subgroup to pass state tests so they could achieve "Adequate Yearly Progress."

Failing to meet AYP could lead to specific steps, such as facilitating student transfers, paying for outside tutoring or restructuring school administration. But sanctions directly affected only schools that received federal funding for their large proportion of low-income students.

The Obama Administration has granted waivers from aspects of the law in recent years to many states, including Oregon. Washington state had a waiver, but lost it over a disagreement related to using test scores to measure teacher effectiveness.

The new "Every Student Succeeds Act" had the support of teachers' unions, because "it gets the federal government out of teacher evaluation systems," according to a statement from the American Federation of Teachers.

The bill also has support of state-level officials for its emphasis on state control over testing goals and sanctions. The ESSA would require states to craft accountability plans and submit them for federal approval — a process that Oregon officials say would likely start next year.

All 64 votes against the federal education bill Wednesday came from Republicans in states other than Oregon and Washington.

Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici was as part of a unanimous Democratic vote in favor. She said the bill puts more control in states' hands.  

"The Every Student Succeeds Act returns flexibility to states and school districts to design interventions that address the specific needs of their schools," Bonamici said in a floor statement Wednesday. "And importantly, it has states use multiple measures of academic progress in their accountability systems, so no schools will be punished for the performance of students on a single exam."    

There's still a requirement that 95 percent of students in grades three through eight take standardized tests. But performance goals and sanctions would mostly be up to states.

The Oregon Department of Education has drafted a summary of the law and how it might affect the state's public schools. Officials say the summary will be updated as they get more details of the bill.

The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it is expected to pass.

Editor's Note: The ODE law summary was updated to reflect the most recent draft.

Phoebe Flanigan


Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Rob Manning is a news editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting, with oversight of reporters covering education, healthcare and business. Rob became an editor in 2019, following about 15 years covering schools and universities in Oregon and southwest Washington as OPB’s education reporter.