Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic No Longer Required For Oregon Diploma   -   August 28, 2021

Must Oregon Employers Now Test New Hires For The Three Rs of Basic Education?

Governor signs bill on July 14 barring schools from requiring that high-school students demonstrate “Proficiency in Essential Learning Skills” before graduation.  Supporters say that requiring such skills has been unfair for students who do not test well.

The requirement was first suspended at the start of the Covid19 pandemic.  The new law extends that suspension for three more years, but The Oregonian newspaper reported the bill could stay in effect for five years.  The Deputy Communications Director for Governor Brown’s office said that the new standards will benefit the state’s “Black, Latino, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”  Apparently, by lowering expectations for all students.  How insulting, and racist!

Heretofore, the state has insisted that Oregon students become prepared for success in the real world, which requires competence in basic subjects.  But no more.  Instead of reacting to covid-related stresses by maintaining standards and finding new ways to help students meet them, Oregon sends the message ‘not to worry, everyone gets a diploma.’  And they justify that action by insulting all non-whites.  We don’t know what’s really going on, but here’s what it looks like.

At the start of the pandemic, Oregon officials bowed to pressures to close schools, with little or no thought as to how they they would ensure that students could continue to be prepared for minimum graduation requirements.  (In this they were not alone.)  Then, when testing indicated that growing numbers of Oregon students were not prepared (duh), the officials simply lowered the bar.

The message to educators – teachers and administration – is “relax, you’ll continue getting paid and nobody’s going to know if your teaching isn’t effective.”  The message to students is “don’t bother to study or do assignments or even attend, you’ll graduate on time with everyone else.”  The message to parents is “don’t push your child to do homework or test well, no chance they won’t get that diploma just like everyone elses’ kids.”

And the message to employers filling entry-level jobs is “caveat emptor; a diploma from an Oregon school is meaningless.  Better test all applicants.”  Which they can’t or won’t do, because they can’t find enough employees as it is.  So costs and turnover will go up, and output/service/quality will suffer.

So who gains?  Certainly not Oregon businesses.  In the long run, certainly not graduates of Oregon schools or their parents; even the qualifications of those who are ‘proficient in essential learning skills’ will often be suspect.  Not Oregon cities with more unemployed young people on the streets.  That leaves Oregon Educators, who are freed from a measure of accountability, and government officials/politicians who are freed from explaining declining metrics.

Oregon businesses should test job applicants for “proficiency in essential learning skills”, or at least applicants who have graduated from Oregon schools since 2020.

(For more, preview Rise and Decline here.)


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