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Survey helps shape state's waiver of federal school law

Opinions also could guide new Education Investment Board
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Gov. John Kitzhaber is leading the effort to seek a waiver from key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which many argue has hurt public schools more than helped them.

Have an opinion on testing in schools? Gov. John Kitzhaber wants to hear from you.

He and a team of about 100 people organized by the Oregon Department of Education are drafting a waiver application for key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which many argue has hurt public schools more than helped them.

President Obama announced in September that he'd grant 'flexibility' waivers from the 2002 law to states that have their own testing and accountability measures in place, and so far 11 states have applied: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

To meet the February deadline, state officials plan to draft a waiver application by mid-December, collect public feedback and submit it to the U.S. Department of Education in mid-January.

Kitzhaber's office has solicited public opinion via an online survey since mid-November and has received more than 2,300 comments from teachers, parents, administrators and others statewide. The survey - which runs through this weekend -asks people for their priorities regarding student achievement, how to assess it and how to hold schools accountable.

Results of the survey will help shape the waiver application, as well as Kitzhaber's work through his new Oregon Education Investment Board.

The goal is to implement all changes before next fall.

With increasingly punitive measures, part of the President George W. Bush-era law requires that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Ben Cannon, the governor's top education adviser, is leading the waiver application effort. He joined Kitzhaber's staff in September, stepping down from his post as a Democratic state representative representing parts of Southeast and Northeast Portland. He also has taught humanities at an independent K-8 school in Tualatin.

Here is the introduction to the survey (surveymonkey.com/s/creating_new_system):

'Oregon has an historic opportunity to rethink how it assesses student progress, to create a homegrown system of accountability and to support increased achievement in K-12 schools

• Oregon will adopt next generation assessments for students, based on the Common Core Standards.

• The state will apply for a package of waivers from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, formerly known as the No Child Left Behind.

• And the Oregon Education Investment Board will oversee creation of a true system of public education - spanning from early childhood through K-12 and post-secondary education - along with an outcomes-focused investment model.

• Superintendent Susan Castillo and Gov. Kitzhaber envision a statewide accountability system that (a) sets clear, measurable, outcomes-focused goals for schools and districts and (b) provides ongoing monitoring, standards and support to help schools and districts reach those goals in ways consistent with high quality educational practice.'