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Special report: Grading on a Curve? Some parents worry graduation rates are high because expectations are low

(Update: Adding video, comments from school counselor)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With local high school graduation rates generally at just over 80%, some parents are asking if expectations have been lowered.

"There simply is no accountability," one Crook County parent told us recently. "I feel like we're graduating students who have not demonstrated basic proficiency in reading and writing."

Andy Fleming, a guidance counselor at Summit High School, says parents should reach out to teachers to learn more about their students' education.

"Let's start to ask those questions and answer those questions, and do it by looking at some of the evidence of the work product and talking to the teachers and talking to the students and really finding out, what is the learning that's happening?" Fleming said recently.

Bend-La Pine Schools require 26 credits for students to graduate, two more than the state requirements. Students taking 28 credits and advanced placement classes can also receive an honors-level diploma.

But some local parents fear their students aren't learning the skills they need to be successful after high school.

We received numerous comments on Facebook from parents saying the bar for graduation was lowered and that they believe students get a pass. One even compared the 81 percent graduation rate to the quality of tires.

One parent told NewsChannel 21, "We're basically saying, 'Well, we don't really trust you to do a good job. We don't believe you can do a good job. And therefore, here are the standards. And yeah, you've met them and they're kind of, you know, the standards are basically as low as they could possibly be.'"

In 2015, 11th-graders were tested for essential skills like reading, writing and math, needing to score a 4 to prove college readiness. But in 2020, the Oregon Senate passed Senate Bill 744, requiring the state to reevaluate graduation requirements, removing essential skill standardized testing until at least 2027. 

Now, students who fail to demonstrate proficiency will not be required to make it up their senior year.

Schools across the country are also still struggling after the pandemic. Attendance and engagement are the hardest skills to gain back for students, says Fleming, and that could be why parents might feel like their student isn't ready.

"As we engage with our students, what choices are they making, what is the consequence? And be aware and present with what is happening," he said. "And I think, really, the more you engage, the more you ask for help, the more you try more difficult things, the more you grow, and the better experience it's going to be."

Starting in 2027, students will be required to take financial literacy and career skills classes.

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.


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