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PJ Media
PJ Media
21 Oct 2023
Milt Harris


NextImg:Oregon Department of Education Flushes Proficiency Standards For Graduation In Basic Subjects

When I was growing up, we were taught that the basic subjects were Reading, Writing and “rithmetic.” It was impressed upon us that to navigate through life you must be somewhat proficient in all three areas. That wasn’t to say that other subjects like science and history weren’t important, but those three would be used on a daily basis when we were out in the workplace. In today’s educational system, it is shocking that proficiency in even these basic subjects is not required. What’s even more shocking is that requiring a certain degree of adequacy is at times considered inequitable and even racist.

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The state of Oregon is an example of this new way of thinking. In July of 2021, Governor Kate Brown very quietly signed Senate Bill 744. The bill dropped the requirement that high school students be tested to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and math. The requirement was originally suspended at the beginning of the pandemic, but by signing this bill it was extended for an additional three years through the 2024 school year.

At the time, Foundations for a Better Oregon said in a statement that the bill was intended to “truly reflect what every student needs to thrive in the 21st century.” Supporters insisted that considering math and reading essential skills was an unfair challenge for students that do not test well.

Since time began, there have always been students that tested better than others. That certainly is nothing new. So how does lowering the expectations improve their test taking skills? There are training classes available that are designed specifically to do just that. It seems to me that common sense would dictate to work on improving the students test taking ability, rather than eliminating the tests completely.

Upon hearing about the bill back in 2021, the editorial staff at the Oregonian disagreed with Brown’s decision and urged her to reconsider and to veto the bill. Thy wrote: “Oregon schools were among the last in the country to reopen to in-person instruction during the pandemic. Our legislators should be focused on how to help students regain the ground they’ve lost after a year and a half of distance learning and hybrid instruction, not on lowering our standards.”

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As bad as that decision was at the time, the state Board of Education has voted unanimously to extend the pause on what was called “controversial” graduation requirements until 2029 according to a report from Oregon Live.

The decision was based on a report that was published about a year ago. in September 2022. It did not sit well with some Oregon voters as many submitted public requests to have the requirements reinstated.

In the report, the State Department of Education officials claim that documenting proficiency through a standardized test or similar means “was a harmful hurdle for historically marginalized students, a misuse of state tests and did not translate to meaningful improvements in students’ post high school success.”

The report also claimed that “students of color, students learning English as a second language and students with disabilities” had been taking supplemental courses during their senior years to attain proficiency “that denied those students the opportunity to take an elective.”

Not being able to take an elective seems like a very small sacrifice to make in order to become proficient in necessary life skills. This is classic leftist reasoning. Someone’s feelings were hurt — more than likely either a student of color or a member of the LGBTQ community. They raised a complaint and, presto, no more proficiency testing for another five years.

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One board member Vicky Lopez Sanchez, stated that assessments haven’t been “suspended,” but the board did suspend the “inappropriate use of how those assessments were being used.”

Translation: Sanchez is implying that the state still has requirements to graduate that include a certain number of credits and completion of a plan that maps out how students intend to achieve their goals. What she fails to realize is that these students were somehow moved along through grades one to twelve while their skills in these subjects obviously weren’t proficient. It’s one thing to pass a student between grades, hoping that they will catch up at some point. But if they haven’t by graduation time, then someone must be held accountable.

In my humble opinion, there needs to be more proficiency tests all along the education trail from grades one through twelve and not less. If a student isn’t proficient in the lower grades, steps need to be taken to make sure that they become so while there is still time to correct the problem.

Passing the buck from grade to grade, then eliminating the test so they can graduate isn’t a solution; it’s an excuse for poor teaching. Students aren’t dirt that can be swept under the rug and they shouldn’t be treated like it.

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