SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – The Oregon Department of Education is defending a controversial state board decision to continue a pause on a high school graduation testing requirement for another six years, saying the state still has some of the nation’s toughest requirements for a diploma, in terms of skills and coursework.
Board members stressed at Thursday’s unanimous vote that most high school students will still take state-mandated standardized tests, only that they won’t be used to determine if they have the skills needed to graduate, The Oregonian reported. The vote extends through the 2027-28 school year a pause on the testing requirement that began when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
Opponents argued that pausing the requirement devalues Oregon’s high school diploma. But state education officials said requiring all students to pass one of several standardized tests or create an in-depth assignment their teacher said met state standards hurt historically marginalized students, was a misuse of state tests and did not translate into meaningful improvements in students post-high school success, the paper reported.
Here is the full statement provided Friday to NewsChannel 21 by the state Department of Education and a news release Thursday from a group led by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan, a leading opponent of the continued pause in the requirement:
"Oregon's graduation requirements are rigorous, rivaling those of most states in the country, with the exception of Connecticut. Our students must demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and math to earn a diploma.
"Let's be clear: we haven't eliminated assessments for Oregon students. What's changed is the insistence on a specific test score for graduation. Our students still need to meet essential skill requirements as indicated in their coursework, CTE pathway options and more.
"Initially, this policy was intended to aid students in pursuing post-secondary opportunities, but research indicates that it hasn't improved first-year college readiness. Therefore, it's essential to continue the conversation and decision-making process as we look to policy leadership to approve and establish the new requirements.
"The suspension provides an opportunity for the State Board and Oregon's Legislature to collaborate with and engage more deeply with the community to design and implement policies that better serve our students."
Board of Education Ignores 1,400+ Pieces of Public Comment, Unanimously Suspends Graduation Requirements
CANBY, Ore. – Today, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to suspend the Assessment of Essential Skills as a graduation requirement for high school seniors. A New Direction organized a public campaign opposing the proposal, which led to over 1,400 Oregonians submitting written testimony.
Christine Drazan released the following statement:
“It’s clear that the Board works for the Governor, not Oregonians. Having appointed six of the nine members of the Board, Governor Kotek is ultimately responsible for their decision to ignore public input. The fact that there was not one dissenting voice on this vote should be alarming to Oregonians.”
“The Board failed to discuss their responsibility for lagging academic achievement in our state. Instead, they cast the blame on a tool used to measure a student's ability to read, write, and do math.”
“It’s disappointing that these unelected bureaucrats decided to ignore public comment and continue down a path that neglects their responsibility to help students meet high standards.”
Christine Drazan is the founder of A New Direction – a 501(c)4 non-profit organization dedicated to connecting Oregonians with each other to advance policies and ideas that make Oregon a safer, more affordable place to live and raise a family, strengthen checks and balances, improve transparency, empower Oregonians and support the next generation.