The Oregon State Board of Education is considering an extension of lowered high school graduation requirements.
The OSBE recently delayed a vote regarding the state’s controversial high school graduation requirements after blowback against the weakened standards.
“The essential skills learning requirements provide valuable assessments and data to ensure our students can read, write and do math before graduation,” said Rep. Tracy Cramer, R-Gervais.
In 2021, then Gov. Kate Brown signed a law suspending basic graduation requirements for five years. Now the state board is trying to extend the lower standards until 2027-28.
Cramer criticized the board for attempting to “fast-track” the vote without proper consideration.
“This proposal would fast-track a consequential decision that impacts the next four years of Oregon high school graduates,” the state representative said.
Without rigorous graduation standards, Oregonians are wondering if high school diplomas have lost their value.
After Brown waived graduation requirements during COVID, rates continued to grow – reaching 81.3% in 2022.
But Sen. Michael Denbrow, D-Portland, doesn’t think lower standards make a difference.
“I think what we are seeing in the increase in graduation rates is just a continuation of a trend that was happening before COVID,” he said.
In 2008, Denbrow sponsored a bill which got rid of standardized testing requirements for high school graduation.
However, according to the state’s most recent report card, only 47% of high school students are proficient in English Language Arts. Only 20% are proficient in math.
Colleges nationwide are finding that high school graduates are less prepared for rigorous academics. Even before the pandemic, college readiness was at its lowest in 15 years, according to the ACT website.
Although OSBE has delayed its vote, board chair Guadalupe Martinez Zapata believes that graduation requirements are racist since students of color don’t excel at the same rates as their white counterparts, reported The Oregonian.
When some public commenters argued that high school diplomas were meaningless without graduation standards, Martinez Zapata called such views “misinformation.”
“Some of the misinformation is presented with artistic quality, mental acrobatics, such that it might be tempting to believe those alternative facts, if only they weren’t automatically discredited by a myopic analysis and bigotry that follows them,” she claimed.
OSBE will consider extending the lower standards at its next meeting on Oct. 19.