Dropping High School Graduation Standards Hurts Students’ Future Prospects

By Stewart Robertson

Recently, Governor Kate Brown quietly signed Senate Bill 744. The new law drops the requirement that high school students show proficiency in math, reading, and writing in order to graduate. The move has received significant media coverage. But little attention is being paid to what will happen once these students receive their diplomas.

A high school diploma is a sign of accomplishment. It shows the student has demonstrated reasonable proficiency in reading, writing, and math. These are important skills for any career path—especially if that path involves college. The new law makes it more likely college admissions staff will think twice before admitting graduates from an Oregon public school. Why would a college want a student who can’t do long division? Why would an employer hire a candidate who doesn’t understand basic algebra?

Just a few years ago, the education establishment pushed STEM skills: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Oregon’s new law effectively says the days of STEM are over. With SB 744, simply warming a chair is all that’s needed to get a diploma in an Oregon public school.

Believe it or not, the Oregon legislature reconvenes in less than 6 months. In the meantime, let your representative know how important it is we bring back proficiency requirements. The futures of our children are at stake.

Stewart Robertson is a Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.