In a unanimous decision, the Oregon State Board of Education has voted to extend high school graduation requirements suspension for at least the next five years. The move comes amid claims that these requirements disproportionately harm students of color and marginalized groups.
The Suspension of Graduation Requirements
Last week, the State Board of Education voted to continue the suspension for another five years amid claims that graduation requirements are unfair to minority students who don’t test well.
Putting Tests on Hold
Before the pandemic, Oregon high school students were required to demonstrate their reading, writing, and math proficiency through standardized tests.
However, as the pandemic led to the closure of schools, these tests were put on hold.
Five More Years
The recent State Board of Education vote extends this suspension for five more years, effectively waiving the essential skills requirement until the 2027-2028 school year.
Impact on Marginalized Students
Opponents of the essential skills requirement argued it was harmful to students of color, students with disabilities, and those learning English as a second language.
New Graduating Requirements
Students who failed to meet expectations had to take extra math and writing classes in their senior year — thus missing an elective class — to graduate.
Still Available in Most School
Board members emphasized its commitment to the state-mandated standardized tests, which will still be administered to most Oregon high school students.
However, these tests will no longer be the determining factor in assessing whether a student possesses the necessary skills for graduation.
Suspending the Inappropriate Use
As Vicky López Sánchez, a State Board of Education member, stated during a recent meeting, “The only thing we are suspending is the inappropriate use of how those assessments were being employed. I believe that this decision serves the best interests of Oregon students.”
Educational Challenges in Oregon
Oregon presents a unique educational landscape with one of the lowest graduation rates in the country. Despite this, it also boasts one of the most rigorous credit requirements, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Public Reactions and Advocacy
The decision has sparked a myriad of reactions from the public. Hundreds of individuals submitted comments urging the Board to reinstate the standards.
Leading the Charge
Many of these requests came from advocacy groups such as A New Direction Oregon, led by former Oregon governor candidate Christine Drazan.
Differing Perspectives on the Issue
Christine Drazan believes that suspending graduation requirements may devalue diplomas, transforming them into participation certificates without the substance required to demonstrate preparedness for the future.
Drazan also raised concerns about the broader shift in education policy towards “equity grading,” a system that, according to her, is “now moving forward with an agenda that says if you cheat, you can’t be flunked. If you don’t show up, you don’t get a zero.”
Against the Opposition
On the other side of the debate, Board Chair Guadalupe Martinez Zapata described the opposition as a “campaign of misinformation.”
The Underlying Reasons
Zapata said that “rhetoric about cultural and social norms being the underlying reason for underperformance on assessments by systemically marginalized students” was comparable to “racial superiority arguments.”
It’s Not Bigoted
However, Drazan, who ran as a Republican for governor in Oregon last year, losing to Democrat Tina Kotek by less than 4% of the vote, said, “It is not bigoted, it is not racist to want your student to be able to actually learn.”
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Source : NYPost