(Update: adding video, comments from Crook County School Board chair)
PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon Senate Bill 744, which temporarily suspends graduates' essential-skills testing as a requirement to earn a high school diploma, has sparked concern among Central Oregon school districts.
“The essential skills tests might not have been a perfect tool but it was a tool, one of many tools we could use,” Crook County School Board Chair Scott Cooper told NewsChannel 21 on Monday.
Cooper is upset that skills tests in math, reading and writing for graduating students will temporaily be suspended through the 2022-2023 school year.
Gov. Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 744 this summer. The essential-skills testing requirement had been put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the closure of many schools and students to learn remotely.
The Oregon Department of Education has said the new law will allow the state to develop more equitable graduation requirements. Officials have been told to compare diploma requirements in different states and find ways to reduce disparities and ensure that graduation requirements are fair.
Cooper said the Crook County School District is amending its graduation requirements in order to prove learning proficiency in its students.
“We are amending our graduation standards in response to calls from our community to simply say you have to be proficient in reading, math, and writing if you’re going to graduate from our schools,” Cooper said.
Although some may believe education standards may have gone down in school districts due to the pandemic, Cooper said Crook County has made sure to keep students on track.
“There were lessons we learned from the pandemic about education and how to deliver it that actually made us better,” Copper said. “We learned we don’t have to be as rigid as we thought we did. We learned we can be a lot more flexible.”
Copper added that he feels the removal of the tests was unnecessary.
“We are simply trying to make sure students do have the proficiency that their parents and community would accept,” Cooper said.