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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Oregon keeps grad requirements low: No need for reading, writing, math competency

Oregon won't require students to show mastery of reading, writing or math to collect a high school diploma, reports Sami Edge in The Oregonian. Graduation requirements were paused in 2020, when schools were closed. The state education board extended the pause until at least 2029.

Photo: Gul Isik/Pexels

In the past, students had to pass tests or "create an in-depth assignment their teacher judged as meeting state standards," writes Edge. High schools gave intensive writing and math instruction to 12th-graders at risk of not meeting the graduation rules.

Black and Hispanic students, English Learners and students with disabilities were more likely to need the intensive courses. Critics of the requirement say that denied them the chance to take an elective.

State school board members and education officials said the need to show mastery of state standards "was a harmful hurdle for historically marginalized students," she writes.

Oregon must be a Looking Glass World: Motivating students to improve their writing and math skills is harmful. Sending them out into the world unprepared -- but with another elective -- is helpful.

Critics of the mastery rule cite a 2021 analysis that found no evidence proficiency standards improved graduates' performance in their first year of college, Edge writes. However, the report also suggested that the standards may have been “too low to improve college and university outcomes.” It didn't look at outcomes for students who didn't enroll in college.

While Oregon will still test students, legislators have "mandated that families be told each year that they can opt their student out of taking state tests," writes Edge. "One third of high school juniors didn’t take the tests last spring, meaning they and their families don’t necessarily know how they measure up against statewide academic standards."

A 2021 analysis by Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission "found no clear evidence that implementing the proficiency standards improved the performance of Oregon high school graduates during their first year of community college or university classes," Edge writes. However, the report also suggests that the standards may have been “too low to improve college and university outcomes.”

Oregon used to score above the national average, but scores have fallen sharply, reported Betsy Hammond in The Oregonian in 2022. "Oregon elementary and middle school students now read and do math far more poorly, on average, than their counterparts nationwide," according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. "Oregon’s fourth- and eighth-grade math performance ranked sixth worst in the country."

Many more Oregon students scored “below basic.”

"Oregon’s schools remained fully closed or offered only sporadic in-person learning far longer during the 2020-21 school year than typical U.S. schools," she wrote.

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