By Oregon State Representative Cyrus Javadi
As kids return to school, I have spoken with many parents who are losing faith in our public school system. In a recent study of 40 states, Oregon came out with the nation’s fourth-worst student absenteeism rate. Over 36% of Oregon students miss 10% or more of their school year.
In the last few weeks, reports have shown that Oregon’s test scores are not rebounding post-pandemic. Data shows that only 40% of the state’s third graders were proficient in reading, writing, and math this spring. That’s down from 47% proficiency in English and 46% in math in from before the pandemic. Among eighth graders, only 44% achieved proficiency in reading and 26% in math. Since 2019, that’s down from 53% and 38% respectively.
I ask myself why this is… Students in other states are rebounding much better than Oregon students, including states like Mississippi, which historically has had poor achievement rates. However, in the past decade, Mississippi has put a lot of time and energy into laying the foundation of learning for students, specifically in reading. Now, post-pandemic, those efforts are paying off.
I was proud to support Governor Kotek’s early childhood literacy package to begin to solidify our reading curriculum for young students. I believe the investment it makes in teachers to train them in the fundamentals of phonics and “the science of reading” is an excellent step in the right direction.
We can and must do better to prepare our students for future success. It’s a shame we let our students get to this point, and it won’t change overnight just because we passed one bill. Mississippi has been undergoing this process for a decade, but the results speak for themselves.
We must also unleash the power of choice in education. I believe that includes giving parents more power to choose an educational environment that best fits their child’s needs. My primary concern is setting our kids up to be the best they can be, and we must do more as a Legislature to empower parents and students.
I believe it also requires parents to step up and give feedback to the people who are making decisions about what gets taught in our schools. To that end, the Oregon Department of Education is adopting new Health Education standards.
I would encourage parents read through these standards to familiarize yourselves with what state policymakers recommend teaching your children.