An Oregon-based parental rights group said it was “not surprising” that the Oregon State Board of Education decided to remove the requirement to show proof of mastery in reading, writing, and math through a standardized test in order to graduate from high school.
“It’s not surprising that they’ve continued to push off the implementation of new graduation requirements,” Oregon Moms Union President MacKensey Pulliam told Fox News Digital on Tuesday.
“They always say that the agenda has something to do with underserved communities and marginalized students and how the test does them a disservice.”
Pulliam argued the tests are designed to serve as a checkpoint to make sure students are ready or to allow them to get extra help if they need it.
“I think that proficiency rates here in Oregon are dismal, and they’re not getting better,” Pulliam said. She continued, “And so part of me wonders is, you know, are they removing these standards so that it looks like students are actually doing better?”
The Oregon State Board last week voted unanimously to extend a pause on the requirement for 11th-grade students to demonstrate competency in essential skills reading, writing, and math through either a standardized test or a portfolio of work on top of regular coursework.
Students who failed to demonstrate proficiency in the essential skills were to make up for it in their senior year to graduate.
Standardized tests will still be issued; however, the Board voted to remove the standardized test as a factor in determining whether students receive their diplomas. Also, students who fail to demonstrate proficiency in the essential skills will not be required to make up for it in their senior year.
“Let’s be clear: we haven’t eliminated assessments for Oregon students. What’s changed is the insistence on a specific test score for graduation. Our students still need to meet essential skill requirements as indicated in their coursework, CTE pathway options, and more,” Oregon Department of Education spokesman Marc Siegel told Fox News Digital on Monday.
“We haven’t suspended any sort of assessments,” she said. “The only thing we are suspending is the inappropriate use of how those assessments were being used. I think that really is in the best interest of Oregon students.”
The Oregon Board of Education voted to continue the suspension of the graduation requirement until 2027.
The policy was put in place in 2012. Former Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in 2021 signed a bill freezing the requirement during the pandemic.
“They got rid of their requirements back in 2021, and they were supposed to implement new graduation requirements, I believe, next year. But instead, they continue to push it out,” Pulliam said.
She went on to say, “They’re pushing it off for five more years. So really, they’ve kind of essentially made an Oregon high school diploma a participation trophy because they’re not requiring students to be able to prove that they can read and do math at an 11th-grade level in order to graduate.”
Furthermore, Oregon State Board members cited the way the assessment results were being used marginalized students of color and students with disabilities.
Their decision was based on a research report from the ODE to the Senate Committee on Education. The report was commissioned when the Oregon legislature in 2021 passed a bill requiring a review and investigation into “potential inequitable impacts of current diploma policy.”
ODE’s assistant superintendent of research told KTVL the research showed that academic outcomes could be predicted by race and other attributes.
“The ways that students met the requirements, the types of diplomas that they got could all be predicted by race, ethnicity, IEP status, multilingual learner status,” said Dan Farley, ODE’s assistant superintendent of research.
“We have to do what we can to disrupt those basically racist outcomes.”
The recommendations were part of a report sent to the Senate Committee on Education.
Since lawmakers have not yet addressed the ODE’s new graduation recommendations, the department in the meantime requested that the state board extend the freeze on the current requirements through at least the 2027-28 school year.
The ODE is in talks with lawmakers to develop new graduation requirements that would address student needs, according to Siegel.
“Initially, this policy was intended to aid students in pursuing post-secondary opportunities, but research indicates that it hasn’t improved first-year college readiness. Therefore, it’s essential to continue the conversation and decision-making process as we look to policy leadership to approve and establish the new requirements.”
“The suspension provides an opportunity for the State Board and Oregon’s Legislature to collaborate with and engage more deeply with the community to design and implement policies that better serve our students.”
Pulliam said that parents are “frustrated” with the decision.
“I think that we’ve seen a major decline in our kids’ ability to read and write here in Oregon. And I think that’s a problem that we’re seeing across the country as well,” Pulliam said.
“But I think that most parents feel that instead of lowering the standards, we need to be doing more to catch our kids up on learning loss from the pandemic and get them to the level they need to be at in order to reach those standards to graduate, instead of just getting rid of the standards and allowing them to graduate when they’re completely unprepared.”
Forming in early 2021, Oregon Moms Union was created in the wake of COVID-19 school shutdowns and distance learning. The group “seeks to empower parents to advocate for a student-first K-12 education system.” The Oregon Moms Union currently has more than 90 volunteer School District Captains serving in more than 75 school districts.
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