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Districts to have more input on school achievement

New measures could relieve state of NCLB requirements

Last week, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed an education reform bill into law that, among other things, establishes a process eventually meant to distribute funding to school districts based on achievement. The process begins during the budgeting cycle for the 2012-2013 year with an 'achievement compact,' which is an agreement between local school districts and the newly created Oregon Education Investment Board.

'Eventually there will be a plan for connecting that to funding but that's a few years down the road,' WL-WV Superintendent Bill Rhoades explained to the school board at its March meeting. 'The idea is that (the state) is going to invest in high levels of student achievement.'

The goals in the achievement compact will then be linked to the state School Fund, which distributes funding to districts using a formula.

Achievement compacts will also be made with community colleges, educational service districts (ESDs), the Oregon University System and its seven universities and Oregon Health and Sciences University.

The achievement compacts play a role in Oregon's application for a waiver under the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind act, which sets a goal of 100 percent of students meeting achievement targets by 2014.

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, benchmarks were higher for all students this year, meaning that if even a few students could not meet the standards, the whole school was given a 'not met.'

For the 2010-2011 year, West Linn High School, Rosemont Ridge Middle School and Athey Creek Middle School missed the benchmark in their math and reading test scores among students with disabilities.

The only time the entire WL-WV school district has met the academic achievement ratings was in 2002 when the NCLB first became law. Since then there have been repeated shortfalls in the special education category.

'The 100 percent compliance by 2014 seemed an impossible goal,' said WL-WV school board member Betty Reynolds, who got involved in a governor's committee to create a different measure for meeting NCLB.

Reynolds ran for school board last year and became interested in the NCLB requirements after the district missed key benchmarks last fall. Eventually, schools that do not meet requirements can lose federal Title I funding, which is meant to help schools with a higher percentage of low income students.

The new achievement compacts will play a role in Oregon's application for a NCLB waiver, which is a new process designed to relieve states of meeting the 2014 deadline in exchange for locally designed education reform.

'There is widespread opinion that (NCLB targets) are punitive and one size fits all,' said Reynolds. 'Under the waiver it's hoped that it will be a more customized system ... It will be more tailored to individual districts and how the individual districts are attempting to close achievement gaps.'

Reynolds was elected to the Oregon School Boards Association Legislative Policy Committee in December 2011. In February, she represented OSBA by providing input through the Achievement Compact Advisory Committee of 24 people, which met twice.

'It was one of many outreach efforts by the governor to engage the public and key stakeholders in what's been a very collaborate process,' said Reynolds.

Because of the short timeline this year, the compact won't be quite as comprehensive as lawmakers intend.

For this year, the Oregon Education Investment Board will distribute achievement compacts on Monday, April 2, and school boards will set goals concurrently with the budget process.

The draft compact will have five different sections. The first will address high school completion goals. Last year, the Legislature approved a 40-40-20 goal for 40 percent of Oregon adults to have a bachelor's degree, 40 percent to have a associate's degree and 20 percent to have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent by 2025.

Secondly, the compact will address whether students are making adequate progress using the existing Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) to measure subject proficiency at different grade levels. It also adds a measure for the number of high school students earning college credit.

Like the existing system, the compact will have a target number and percentage for each goal - for the whole student body as well as various subgroups, such as English language learners, special education, low income and racial or ethnic categories.

Third, the compact will address schools who have fallen in the "needs improvement" category on the Adequate Yearly Progress report - an annual report on schools' achievement - in the past.

As part of the governor's focus on early childhood through college education, the compacts will also look at connections between different levels of education. For example: How many local students are enrolling in college once they leave West Linn High School?

The achievement compact also gives school districts the opportunity to express local outcome-based goals.

'I'd anticipate that our local level will be set at a significantly higher level than what the state would be based on our current performance,' said Rhoades.

'That's the area where schools can showcase best practices and innovation,' said Reynolds.

Eventually, each compact will include the district's share of the state's K-12 Quality Education Model, which is a number that helps to inform lawmakers of the costs of providing an education that will meet the K-12 goals statewide. Often, the amount of the QEM is beyond what the budget can support, so there will also be an indication of actual state funding as well. Additionally, the compact will list local investment, such as local option levies and capitol bonds.



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