Oregon’s high school graduation requirements have undergone a significant change, as the state’s education officials voted to extend the suspension of essential skills testing for at least five more years, citing concerns that these requirements were unnecessary and disproportionately affected marginalized students. The decision has sparked debate and generated mixed reactions from various stakeholders.
The essential skills requirement, which had been temporarily on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has now been extended through the 2027-2028 school year. Under this requirement, 11th graders were expected to demonstrate competence in essential subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, through standardized tests or work samples. Students who did not meet these standards were required to take additional math and writing classes in their senior year, potentially missing elective courses in the process.
The rationale behind the suspension, according to the Oregon State Board of Education, was that these standards were seen as unnecessary and detrimental to marginalized students, including those with disabilities and English language learners. Board members argued that these requirements led to disproportionately higher rates of these students having to take extra steps to prove their eligibility for graduation.
Utah Congressman @BurgessOwens on Oregon suspending basic skill graduation requirements for high school: “We’re seeing an attack on our education system. It’s been going on for decades.”@FoxBusiness @BrianBrenberg @MadisonAlworth @JackieDeAngelis pic.twitter.com/6Bnp0hM1Wc
— The Big Money Show (@TheBigMoneyShow) October 24, 2023
The decision was met with significant opposition from the public, with many expressing concerns about the potential implications for the quality of education and the value of high school diplomas. Critics argued that it might turn the diploma into more of a “participation prize” rather than a genuine certification of preparedness for future pursuits.
The state of Oregon has decided that learning in school is overrated and of course- racist.
And that’s why- in a unanimous vote- the board of education decided that basic mastery of racist things like reading, writing and math will no longer be a high school graduation… https://t.co/JoTpMCe6Sa
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) October 29, 2023
One prominent critic, former Oregon gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan, raised concerns about the lowering of educational standards across the board in the state. Drazan argued that the state’s education officials were considering measures such as “equity grading” in place of the traditional A to F grading scale, potentially allowing for leniency in academic performance.
Despite the opposition, Board Chair Guadalupe Martinez Zapata defended the decision, characterizing the critics as purveyors of “misinformation” and attributing their arguments to “racial superiority arguments.” This sparked further debate about the decision’s implications for marginalized students and the broader education system.
It’s worth noting that Oregon’s graduation rates have been among the lowest compared to other states, as reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, even with rigorous credit requirements. The decision to suspend essential skills testing raises questions about the state’s approach to improving these rates and the quality of education provided.