Graduating Students Don’t Need To Know How To Read, Do Math and Write

Governor Supports Graduating Students Without Knowing How to Write, Read, and Do Math

The state of Oregon has announced that it will extend its stay on requiring students to be able to read, write, and do math in order to graduate.

In 2020, the Oregon Board of Education voted to suspend the requirement that 11th grade students demonstrate mastery of reading, writing, and math before being allowed to graduate. The students could do so by passing one of several standardized tests or by completing an assignment showing their mastery. Students who did not pass were required to take extra courses in the subject(s) that they had not mastered.

The suspension was set to end in 2021. The Board has since extended the suspension for the next five years, claiming the requirement is racist.

Dan Farley, Oregon Department of Education’s assistant superintendent of research, stated,

“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. We have to do what we can to disrupt those basically racist outcomes.”

Farley said that the state’s essential skills needed to be modernized. “Learning and what students need to know when they graduated has shifted a bit, especially in the technology space, and we need Essential Skills that can capture that before we design the next system that aligns to those essential skills.”

The board members claimed that requiring students to demonstrate their mastery of the bedrock subjects was a “harmful” hurdle for “historically marginalized communities.”

Board Chair Guadalupe Martinez Zapata stated, “We are unable to ethically make a different decision at this point. It is also unethical for us to continue to require this when we know it can continue to cause harm and has had no change in how students are performing.”

Board member Vicky Lopez Sanchez argued, “We haven’t suspended any sort of assessments. 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 assessments will still be administered, but parents can opt their students out, something that one-third of 11th graders did last year.

Many parents oppose the decision, including Mary Miller, who spoke at the meeting. “Any parent of a teenager knows that students are more motivated, and they study, if there is going to be a test,” she said.

Miller said she feels like the suspension is a political decision as Oregon schools adopt “equitable” education.

“Tests measure whether an Oregon student has learned, and the Oregon Business Council is saying that students are coming out of high school not prepared. Oregon is suspending the test for political reasons. They have put a lot of activism into the curriculum. They don’t have time to teach basics anymore because they are substituting in new language arts articles, new tribal history ethnic studies,” she claimed.

Test results show that Oregon students’ scores are suffering since the policy change.

Whether it be from being forced into online classes during COVID, changing academic policies, the suspension of the graduation requirements, or a combination of different factors, the numbers show that students in various grades are struggling with language arts in particular; 10 percent of students scored lower in English Language Arts on the most recent test than in 2019.

The decline seems to follow that of other states that have weakened graduation requirements only to see it harm student achievement. In 2020, for example, Ohio adopted similar changes, as pointed out by Tony Kinnett at the Daily Signal, with students no longer required to be proficient in math or reading in order to graduate. The results are not encouraging.

A report by Ohio State University found that math performance in grades 3-10 has fallen between 1 and 4 percent.

Kinnett also noted that Baltimore City Public Schools relaxed its standards multiples times in the early 2010s. As the Freedom Center reported recently, 23 Baltimore schools had 0 students test proficient in math in 2022.

20 schools had only one or two students test proficient in math. The Nation’s Report Card shows that only 15 percent of Baltimore students were proficient in reading in 2022.

One example of Baltimore’s failure to educate students was a high school senior who had a 0.13 GPA yet ranked 62nd out of 120 students in his class. He had only passed three classes during his four years in high school and was going to have to repeat the classes he failed.

Opponents claim relaxing graduation standards demotivates students from learning and teachers from focusing on important subjects. Some say that if the Oregon Board of Education truly believes the exams are unfair to minority students, it needs to adopt a new way of determining if students can read, write, and do mathematics.

Whitney Grubbs, executive director for Foundations for a Better Oregon, which seeks equity in school and advances reforms, said in public testimony that suspending the graduation requirements without a solution “risks leading Oregonians to believe that our state is lowering expectations to artificially mask disparities” and perpetuates stereotypes that a student’s skin color decides their academic success.

“We urge state leaders to articulate a plan for holding Oregon’s education system accountable for demonstrating whether and how it is supporting all students to meet graduation requirements,” she said.

By lowering standards and teaching politics instead of education, schools are failing students in every possible way. If a student has made it to 11th grade and cannot read, write, or do basic math, the school system has failed them and owes it to the student to help them gain those skills before they graduate. Granting a diploma to a student without proficiency in literacy and math is criminal because these students are being set up — and sent out — to fail.

Lowering expectations isn’t “justice,” it’s laziness. It’s giving up on students rather than putting in the hard work of supporting and challenging them to grow and become the best they can be. Doing away with testing doesn’t help minority students, who educators obviously don’t believe they can teach, it just makes woke, incompetent school officials feel better about themselves.

This article is a repost by Standing For Freedom: In Oregon, students no longer have to prove they can read, write, or do math to graduate

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