Oregon high school students won’t have to prove basic mastery of reading, writing or math to graduate from high school until at least 2029, the state Board of Education decided unanimously on Thursday, extending the pause on the controversial graduation requirement that began in 2020.
The vote went against the desires of dozens of Oregonians who submitted public comments insisting the standards should be reinstated, including former Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan. Backlash against the lowered standard had already delayed the vote, originally slated to take place in September.
Opponents argued that pausing the requirement devalues an Oregon diploma. Giving students with low academic skills extra instruction in writing and math, which most high schools did in response to the graduation rules, helped them, they have argued.
But leaders at the Oregon Department of Education and members of the state school board said requiring all students to pass one of several standardized tests or create an in-depth assignment their teacher judged as meeting state standards was a harmful hurdle for historically marginalized students, a misuse of state tests and did not translate to meaningful improvements in students’ post high school success.
Higher rates of students of color, students learning English as a second language and students with disabilities ended up having to take intensive senior-year writing and math classes to prove they deserved a diploma. That denied those students the opportunity to take an elective, despite the lack of evidence the extra academic work helped them in the workplace or at college, they said.