Graduation celebration silhouettes

Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon legislators sentenced Oregon’s public schools to five years where students will be able to graduate without a requirement that they can read, write or do math at the high school level.

Sounds like Oregon schools were dumbed down courtesy of Senate Bill 744. Were they?

It made sense to relax standards when the pandemic disrupted in-classroom learning. And the purpose of SB 744 was to suspend standards to give the state time to evaluate them to ensure they are fair for “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color,” as the governor’s office said. That is important.

Does following this script mean an Oregon high school degree will mean less for the next five years? Will high school graduates be less challenged and less ready for whatever comes next?

Statements from the school superintendents in Sisters and in Redmond are encouraging. Sisters School District Superintendent Curt Scholl told The Nugget that standards in Sisters will remain strong.

“While I understand that this change in law looks like a lowering of standards, in fact, the only real change is that students will not be required to ‘prove’ competency by taking an assessment or providing special work samples,” he said.

“Here in Sisters, we use standards-based curriculum and measurements, so we can be confident that a student who passes all the classes required to graduate has shown competency in all required subjects,” he said. “In addition, our requirements for a Sisters High School diploma are actually higher than the state standard when it comes to credits.”

The Redmond district told us much the same thing. Redmond Superintendent Charan Cline has said he didn’t think the suspension of the standards would make a difference in getting students ready for college or their careers. Since the Essential Skills law was passed, he’d never seen a student who had earned their required high school credits for graduation not pass the Essential Skills. The district has a set of required credits for graduation, and a student who has earned all of those credits has proven competency already, whether there’s a test or not.

We didn’t get a response from Bend-La Pine Schools by our deadline.

The statements from the school districts don’t wash away all the questions in a river of rationalization. Parents and taxpayers are right to wonder if standards will slip. All we can say is that the teachers and educators we know wouldn’t relax their efforts to teach because of Senate Bill 744.

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(1) comment


Well if it is no longer required to prove competency to maintain standards, then why was this done in the first place? Testing, albeit imperfect, is intended to encourage them to learn and get feedback on the effectiveness of a school's pedagogy. If the testing was unnecessary, then why not just say so and stop it? Finally, apparently if students are white and have difficulty passing these tests, that's not the motivation for suspending the tests. Only non-white students struggling matters to our governor, legislators and educators. How is this supposed to help them?

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