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As Oregon parents send our children off to the new school year, the first time with little or no COVID-19 restrictions since 2020, bureaucrats in our state capital, Salem, are recommending that we eliminate requirements to cover the fact that public schools are failing our children. If we don’t take a stand here, this could easily become a trend pushed by government teacher unions in other states.
During the pandemic, most lawmakers stood idly by while government teacher unions kept our children out of the classroom, resulting in two years of lost learning. On June 22, 2021, the Oregon Legislature passed SB 744, which eliminated the accountability measures that showed whether a high school graduate had a 10th-grade level of proficiency in reading, writing, and math.
The law requires the Oregon Department of Education to make recommendations to the Legislature to revise state requirements for high school diplomas, including the essential skills test. Through this law, the legislature lowered the bar for children because the system is so broken that they feared high school students would not be able to reach a 10th grade level of proficiency.
Earlier this month, the Oregon Department of Education released proposed changes to the Essential Skills Test and other requirements to earn an Oregon high school diploma.
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The 182-page report recommends that the Essential Skills Test be permanently removed as a requirement, and instead leave it up to educators to determine proficiency through students’ course grades.
The Essential Skills Test was originally put in place as a high school graduation requirement and, more importantly, to ensure that a 10th grader was on track to graduate in time. Now, with the proposed recommendations, educators will only have grades to make sure a student doesn’t fall behind. This also removes all responsibility that schools actually help students achieve the required levels of proficiency.
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The report says there was some confusion among parents, educators and students about how to complete the essential skills test, which included options such as a standardized test, writing samples and other ways to show their understanding of basic concepts. Instead of clarifying the test requirements, ODE recommended that it be eliminated entirely.
This measure, no doubt supported by the government’s teachers’ unions in the name of fairness, is the one that fails the most in those students from minority and disadvantaged communities. The requirements the Legislature voted to eliminate served as a checkpoint for students to get extra help if they don’t meet the required proficiency levels, which was crucial for those underserved students who can’t afford tutoring or extra help to catch them up
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Before the pandemic, Oregon ranked nearly last in the nation in metrics of educational success. The pandemic only made this problem worse, and our children are now facing the biggest learning loss in 30 years. In addition, our children will now be faced with graduating with a high school diploma that is even less valuable and applicable in the real world than those in other states. But thanks to the Oregon Department of Education’s progressive state standards, they’ll master gender identity, social justice, and social-emotional learning.
Instead of doing the hard work of identifying problems in our education system, providing solutions to address those problems, and accountability measures to keep our students and the system on track, ODE decided to produce a report to recommend the removing any standards that students were struggling with. In short, they are further eroding an already broken system.
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In a matter of weeks, there is an election that will have drastic implications on where our state is headed, including determining those new graduation standards. Remember the candidates who lowered the quality of our children’s education.
As parents, we must vote for those who demand that our education system do the hard work to address the needs of struggling students instead of ignoring the problems by lowering standards. We must vote as if our children’s education depended on it, because it does.
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