September 19, 2006

Department of Education Makes Wyden/Castillo-Recommended Changes to "No Child Left Behind" Law

Senator, Superintendent hope action signals willingnessto further examine, significantly improve statute

Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it will make changes to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law as recommended by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Oregon Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo earlier this month. Wyden and Castillo unveiled a proposal to improve several components of the NCLB law on March 2; today, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced changes to requirements for rural teachers and teachers of multiple subjects. In accordance with Wyden and Castillo's advice, Secretary Paige announced that rural teachers will now have more flexibility in meeting "highly qualified teacher" requirements. In addition, states will be able to modify their Highly Objective Uniform State Standard[s] of Evaluation (HOUSSE), which will assist teachers of English Language Learners as well as multiple-subject teachers in rural schools. "When I spoke to Secretary Paige last week, he indicated to me that he welcomed our proposal on No Child Left Behind, so today's announcement represents a good first step toward the changes needed to improve the law for Oregon's children and schools," said Wyden. "Hopefully the Department of Education will fully implement today's changes and follow up with a number of others we've recommended - to assess schools more fairly, to create a national strategy to improve and expand our teacher workforce, to better involve parents in their children's education, and to give extra help to students who need it most." "I am pleased that Secretary Paige is moving in the right direction and is listening to Oregon and other states about the changes needed to successfully implement No Child Left Behind," stated Castillo. "Oregon's teachers have always been highly qualified and the new flexibility makes the federal definition a more accurate reflection of the state's high standards for classroom teachers. I'll continue to work with Senator Wyden and the U.S. Department of Education to secure the additional improvements to the law we have proposed." Wyden and Castillo synthesized their full proposal from the concerns and suggestions of parents, teachers, and school and community leaders; Wyden has held numerous "listening sessions" on NCLB across Oregon in recent months, and Castillo visited 35 school districts in the state during her first year in office to see first-hand the progress districts are making to close the achievement gap and to gather feedback on NCLB. If the Secretary of Education fails to act administratively on other components of the Wyden/Castillo initiative, Wyden will introduce legislation in Congress to change the law. The Wyden/Castillo initiative is designed to address the law's least workable provisions and enhance its benefits for Oregon children and schools. Their proposed improvements to No Child Left Behind include: - making school assessment fairer through composite scoring - developing a comprehensive, coordinated strategy to promote teacher recruitment and retention in poor and rural schools - involving parents through Parent Information and Resource Centers that are currently unfunded by the Federal government, and - providing improved instruction and flexibility in meeting requirements for students still learning English and for their teachers. In addition to the changes Secretary Paige announced today for rural teachers, Wyden and Castillo have also asked the Department of Education to give rural schools alternate means of meeting the requirements of NCLB when school choice is unworkable. Wyden is also pursuing full funding of the No Child Left Behind Act. Last week he voted to amend the Federal budget to provide full funding; the proposal was defeated in the Senate largely along party lines.