Saturday 21 October 2023

Oregon Extends Pandemic Pause On Reading, Writing, Math Proficiency High School Graduation Requirement

 Oregon’s high school students will not have to prove basic proficiency in reading, writing, or math to graduate until 2029, the state board of education decided Thursday.

The Oregon Board of Education’s unanimous decision extends the pandemic era pause on the graduation requirement, which was paused in 2021 through the end of the current school year by former Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat.

Previously, high school students had to complete an essential skills standardized test in reading, writing, and math in order to graduate.

Advocates for pausing the graduation requirement previously argued that the test puts certain children, including minority and low-income children, at a disadvantage.

“Under the best of circumstances, in totally normal times with no pandemic, there are a number of children who don’t test well,” Rashelle Chase, who founded a social justice and education advocacy group said last year when the requirement was paused, adding that it is “not a deficit on the part of those children.”

However, prior to Thursday’s vote, dozens of Oregonians submitted public comments demanding the proficiency test requirement be enforced again. Opponents argued that the extra instruction most high schools provided because of the graduation requirement had helped students.

“We haven’t suspended any sort of assessments,” state board member Vicky López Sánchez, who is also a dean at Portland Community College, said Thursday. “The only thing we are suspending is the inappropriate use of how those assessments were being used. I think that really is in the best interest of Oregon students.”

Since the pandemic, students across the nation have suffered significant learning loss and, in many cases, are struggling to perform at their grade level.


Math scores plummeted among fourth and eighth graders in almost every state, the Education Department reported last year. Reading scores have also sunk across the country, erasing the previous three decades of progress. Many students returned to classrooms last year reading at the same level as when the pandemic started, putting them two grade levels behind.

Last year, eighth graders had the lowest U.S. history scores on record and among the lowest civics scores, the Department of Education revealed in May. Only about 13% of eighth graders met proficiency standards for U.S. history last year, and only about a fifth of students were proficient or better in civics.

Exacerbating the problem, students in fourth through eighth grade are actually making slower academic progress now than before the pandemic, a study released over the summer showed, dashing hopes that kids would learn faster to make up for learning loss.

Early evidence of learning loss spurred parents across the country to demand schools return to in-person learning, especially after data showed that children were at low risk for serious cases of COVID.

Some parents even ran for school board positions and won, hoping to stop the learning loss in their district.

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