Dumbing down graduation standards to hide political failures

By Oregon Moms Union,

As Oregon parents send our kids off into the new school year, the first time with little to no COVID-19 restrictions since 2020, bureaucrats in our state capitol, Salem, are recommending that we dumb down requirements to cover for the fact that public schools are failing our kids. If we don’t take a stand here, this could easily become a trend pushed by government teachers’ unions in other states.

During the pandemic, most legislators sat idly by while the government teachers’ unions kept our kids out of the classroom, causing two years of learning loss. On June 22, 2021, the Oregon Legislature passed SB 744, which removed the accountability measures that showed whether a high school graduate had a 10th grade proficiency level in reading, writing, and math.

The law requires that the Oregon Department of Education make recommendations to the Legislature to review state requirements for high school diplomas including the Essential Skills Test. Through this law, the legislature lowered the bar for kids because the system is so broken that they feared graduating seniors can’t meet a 10th grade proficiency level.
Earlier this month, the Oregon Department of Education released their proposed changes to the Essential Skills Test and other requirements to earn an Oregon High School diploma.

The 182-page report recommends that the Essential Skills Test be permanently eliminated as a requirement and instead it would be up to educators to determine proficiency through the students’ course grades.

The Essential Skills Test was originally put into place as both a requirement to graduate high school and—more importantly—to make sure a 10th grader was on track to graduate on time. Now with the proposed recommendations, educators will only have grades to make sure a student isn’t falling behind. This also removes all accountability that schools actually help students reach the necessary proficiency levels.

The report states that there was some confusion amongst parents, educators, and students about how to fulfill the Essential Skills Test, which included options like a standardized test, writing samples, and other ways of showing their understanding of the core concepts. Instead of clarifying the requirements of the test, ODE recommended that it be eliminated entirely.

This move, undoubtedly supported by the government teachers’ unions in the name of equity, fails those students in minority and underserved communities the most. The requirements the legislature voted to remove served as a checkpoint for students to get them extra help if they’re not meeting the necessary proficiency levels, which was crucial to those underserved students who aren’t able to afford tutoring or additional help to catch them up.

Before the pandemic, Oregon ranked nearly last in the nation in education success metrics. The pandemic only made that problem worse, and our kids are now facing the largest learning loss in 30 years. On top of that, our kids will now be faced with graduating with a high school diploma that is even less valuable and applicable in the real world than those from other states. But—thanks to the Oregon Department of Education’s progressive state standards, they’ll be fluent in 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 put together a report to recommend the elimination of any standard that students were struggling with. In short, they’re further eroding an already broken system.

In a matter of weeks, there is an election that will have drastic implications on the direction of where our state is headed, including determining these new graduation standards. Remember the candidates who lowered the quality of education for our kids.

As parents, we must vote for those who demand that our education system actually does the hard work in addressing struggling students’ needs instead of ignoring problems by reducing standards. We must vote like our kids’ education depends on it, because it does.