Is OR Gov. right to suspend math/reading requirements for HS graduates?


Fact Box

  • On July 14, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 744 that drops the requirements for high school students to prove reading, writing, and math proficiency before graduation. Bill supporters argue the requirements have been “unfair” to students who don’t test well, while Republicans believe the bill lowers “expectations for our kids.” 
  • Oregon was among one of the last schools to open during the pandemic. Gov. Brown ordered classroom instruction to start March 29, 2021 for elementary and April 19, 2021 for high school students
  • Only eleven states still have graduation test requirements as of 2020: Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. 
  • For the 2021 US school year, Montana had the highest graduation rate at 94 percent while California had the lowest at 83 percent. Oregon scored 91 percent.

Ethan (Yes)

Oregon’s math and reading requirements are unfair to any student dealing with personal challenges and external obstacles. For some students who suffer from test anxiety or attention deficit disorders, the math and reading requirements may be keeping them from performing to the best of their abilities. These students may actually be at the level expected of them but are unable to demonstrate it due to their personal challenges. Suspending the math and reading requirements will help schools avoid punishing students for something they can’t control. In addition to personal challenges, many students find themselves far behind their peers due to the effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on schools. Students who couldn’t afford outside resources to help with online classes are now struggling, and suspending these requirements will help make up for this unique challenge

A student’s ability to succeed in our country shouldn’t be based on their ability to read or do math to certain predetermined levels. Some students plan on entering into fields that require little math or reading abilities, and students who will be extremely successful in those fields may not get the chance to prosper if they are held to certain standards that may not even apply to their goals. 

Although students won’t be forced to meet the math and reading requirements, students will still need to pass their regular classes to graduate high school. Charles Boyle, a spokesman for the governor of Oregon, stated that “standardized testing should not be conflated with graduation requirements.” This means they will still be perfectly competent individuals, but with the opportunity to see their worth outside their ability to do higher level math and reading. 

Stephanie (No)

Oregon is failing its children by allowing students to graduate high school without proving that they can read, write, or do math, thus cheating them out of the very purpose of their education. While many could argue that it is possible to succeed in life without mastering elective courses such as art or music, subjects such as “reading, writing, [and] math” exist virtually everywhere in life. School districts that allow this to happen are only doing a disservice to their students’ futures.

Claiming this change will help minority students is absolutely false, as they will be the ones who will be behind later in life without these basic skills. There is also no sense behind the idea that students whose educations were affected by the pandemic or ‘distance learning’ should, for some reason, be held to different testing standards. True, these students may require extra help in these areas, but they should not be exempt from learning common sense skills that any typically functionally high school graduate should be able to perform before entering the real world, which requires they know these things.

While this will surely hurt students’ academic abilities, it may selfishly help graduation rates if students can graduate high school without basic skills. Yet what is the point of educational standards if they do not benefit students? Considering that Oregon formerly only required “that all high school graduates demonstrate a roughly 10th grade level competence in reading, writing, and math,” this is not much to ask in the way of standards. Students performing under this level are better off receiving additional education now rather than continuing into the workforce being barely literate.

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