Oregon, Arizona At High Risk For No Child Left Behind Sanctions

The U.S. Department of Education said it is standing by its decision that Oregon deserves "high-risk status" for its sluggishness on changing teacher evaluations. The department will not reverse its decision that Oregon is a "high risk" of failing to use student test scores to help evaluate teachers. The state is required to take this step to get out from the most onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind.

In a recent letter to Oregon schools chief Rob Saxton, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle said that Oregon has done a lot of work on teacher evaluations, but it still hasn't done what it promised. According to the department, Oregon's slowness to begin judging teachers and principals in part by student achievement gains puts it behind most states, writes Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian.

"In your request for reconsideration, you discuss the work that your staff has already completed and the work it will continue to do in order to satisfy this condition prior to the end of the 2013-14 school year," Delisle wrote. "I acknowledge that the (Oregon Department of Education) has made significant strides" but the Obama administration "stands by its determination to place (Oregon) on high-risk status."

Oregon must continue to submit to monthly scrutiny from the feds and get the work done by May 1 — or else No Child Left Behind rules will kick back in, according to Delisle.

The rules require Oregon to give a "needs improvement" label to all 600 schools that receive federal funding to help disadvantaged students if they fail to get 100% of students to pass state reading and math tests.

Additionally, the rules require all schools with that label to offer students a priority transfer and free bus ride to another school. Such schools also must provide any low-income student who sticks around with free tutoring from an outside agency or firm.

To get out from those provisions of No Child Left Behind, Oregon promised the federal officials in 2012 that by summer 2013, Oregon would have a plan to use student achievement gains as "a significant factor" when evaluating teachers and principals. But by spring 2013, Oregon officials decided they needed another year to get their plan done. The feds were not happy.

According to Saxton, the state could have written a plan on time that would have met the federal standard. But that plan would not have been good enough to use in Oregon schools. The additional year will allow the state to write a much better plan, Saxton said.

"We think the product we are going to end up with is going to be very high quality," Saxton said.

In addition, the Education Department said that Arizona is also a high-risk state for failing to meet various Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility requirements, reports The Associated Press.

In July, the state officials requested to extend approval of its ESEA flexibility request through the end of the 2013-14 school year.

According to federal officials, Arizona's revised guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support system do not meet flexibility requirements. They are asking Arizona education officials to submit another plan within 60 days.

Many states applied to be freed from the most strenuous requirements of the No Child Left Behind law that expired in 2007. The Obama administration is allowing states that promise to improve how they prepare and evaluate students to get a waiver.

11 28, 2013
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