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No Child Act needs amending

The Education Department should enact changes administratively

During a visit to Medford schools last week, Acting Deputy Education Secretary Eugene Hickock acknowledged that the federal No Child Left Behind Act is less than perfect.

We don't have all the answers yet, Hickock said, and added that some adjustments to the act may by possible.

He can make good on those statements by supporting administrative changes to the law proposed the next day by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo.

Wyden and Castillo argue correctly that many of the requirements of the federal act unfairly penalize some schools, particularly those in rural areas.

Specifically, schools could be deemed failing under the law because a small handful of students performs poorly or fails to participate in testing. In addition, the law's requirement that all teachers be highly qualified in the subjects they teach puts too heavy a burden on rural schools where teachers often are called upon to teach several subjects.

Wyden and Castillo announced a five-point plan to amend the No Child Left Behind Act. The plan does not seek to scrap the law entirely, or to try to avoid complying with national standards for student performance. Instead, it seeks to modify testing rules to allow schools to generate a composite score that more accurately reflects successes and failures.

— Wyden said he will first ask the U.S. Department of Education to enact the reforms administratively before introducing legislation. That's where Deputy Secretary Hickock comes in.

President Bush touts the No Child law as a major success of his first term in office. As he tries to win a second term, any attempt to amend the law in Congress will appear to his supporters to suggest that it was flawed. The whole issue will become an election-year football, and the merits of any proposed changes are likely to be lost in a fog of political posturing.

How much better it would be if the Department of Education said, We recognize that it's difficult to enact a law at the federal level that takes into account all the variability of schools and districts across the country. We're willing to consider changes ' not to overturn the law, but to help schools actually live up to its expectations.

We'll be watching to see how Wyden's proposals are received.

Get involved

Medford has a couple of good opportunities for people who want to participate or advance in city government. Both involve city council vacancies ' or coming vacancies ' announced at last Thursday's council meeting.

Councilman Sal Esquivel told the council that his new position as an appointed state senator requires that he quit his council position. Esquivel has represented Ward 2.

Councilman Bill Moore said he plans to resign from the council soon. He said his health has been declining and that he and his wife have decided to move into a senior facility in Ward 1. Moore, 78, represents Ward 4.

We encourage anyone with an interest in civic affairs to consider applying to fill one of these positions. We hope that a number of candidates apply for these important jobs so that the council has a cross-section of people from which to choose.

Both council terms expire Dec. 31. Ward 2 residents may apply for Esquivel's seat at the city recorder's office. Moore's position is not open yet.