Grad requirements, sad commentary

Oregon’s Education Performance
    
One third of Oregon high school sophomores are unable to read at minimal state standards. Moreover, nearly half of our sophomore students are unable to meet minimal standards in math and writing skills. In an attempt to compel improvement on these abysmal teaching outcomes, the Oregon Board of Education is attempting to create minimal testing requirements for high school graduation in Oregon. Twenty six other states currently require that their senior students pass tests that demonstrate minimal learning achievement in order to earn a high school diploma.

The old axiom "What does not get measured does not get done" is
certainly true of education. The testing requirements proposed by the
Oregon Board of Education are anything but draconian. Under the Boards
proposal, senior students could earn their high school diploma
following any of three paths.
   
First the seniors could
receive their diploma by passing currently existing 10th grade
benchmarks for math, reading and writing proficiency. You read that
correctly, in order to graduate, seniors would only be required to do
sophomore level work. What is more, the students would have nine
attempts to pass these exams, three in each the sophomore, junior and
senior years.
   
Second, they could earn a diploma by
achieving a certain score on either of the SAT or ACT national
standardized tests that are required for enrollment in most colleges
and universities. These tests can also be taken more than one time in
each the junior and senior years.
Third, they could achieve a
diploma by passing a locally written assessment in key subjects such as
term papers, work samples or portfolios graded on a statewide standard.

   
Incredibly, superintendents and teachers across the state
have made it plain that they oppose even these minimal education
achievement standards. The Oregon Education Association has written
their concerns to the Board’s proposal, stating their strong opposition
including that the testing requirements would likely lower graduation
rates. In addition, members of the Confederation of School
Administrators have joined the opposition stating concerns that
students who struggle in one or more subjects might not be allowed to
graduate.
   
The question that begs asking is "How can we
expect students to be held accountable for their learning achievement,
when their teachers and administrators refuse to be held accountable
for their teaching performance outcomes"? How can professional
educators be satisfied with their teaching performance standards, when
nearly half of their students fail to achieve minimal math and writing
skills, and over one third cannot even read to grade level? How can
professional educators seriously oppose a graduation standard that only
asks graduating seniors to be able to perform sophomore grade work?    

   
We have many fine and talented teachers and administrators
in Oregon. But their statewide organizations refuse to either accept,
or address, accountability for unacceptable education outcomes. They
are able to maintain the abysmal status quo through the actions of
their well heeled lobby efforts, and by their ability to place their
own members into offices at the highest level of state government.
   
All
monopolies have certain characteristics, including lack of performance
accountability, poor standard of service, uncompetitive costs, lack of
innovation, and a morbid fear of competition. In my opinion, the Oregon
K-12 education enterprise represents a monopoly in every respect.
   
I
do not see that sad reality changing until the people, the parents,
recognize it for what it is, and demand change. That change will not
occur until parents have a choice where their children will attend
school.
   
Oregon desperately needs open enrollment, where a
child may attend any public school of the parents’ choice. Oregon
desperately needs a system of vouchers, where the tax money provided
for the student’s education follows the child to the school chosen by
the students’ parent. Oregon desperately needs a system of education
tax credits that allow the parent to select the course of their
children’s education.
   
Public education in Oregon currently
costs about three times as much, on average, as it costs for a parent
to send their child to a private school. Yet the education outcomes at
most private schools greatly exceed those of our public schools. The
fact of the matter is that the education outcomes of most home
schooling exceed those of our public schools.
   
Isn’t it time to ask why? Isn’t it past time to demand that we measure the outcomes of our public education enterprise?

By Senator Doug Whitsett (R-K Falls-Distr. 28)
Phone: 503-986-1728     
900 Court St. NE, S-302, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us     
 Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett
 

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