Oregon quietly eliminates all standards in reading, writing, and math for getting a high-school diploma

August 11, 2021 • 9:30 am

According to the two articles below (and others from sources that are more on the Right), Governor Kate Brown of Oregon has quietly signed a bill that eliminates the need for students to demonstrate minimal proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics to graduate from high school—for the next five years. Up to now, demonstration of that that proficiency has been required by administering “about five different tests or by completing an in-depth classroom project judged by their own teachers. ” Those requirements are going out the window, so I guess you can graduate if you’re both effectively innumerate and illiterate. The two sources I used in this post are below:

The Oregonian:

. . . and yahoo! news:

Not only did the governor sign the law (more heavily supported by Democrats and more heavily criticized by Republicans), but she refused to comment on it, nor did she give the signing any publicity like a press release or signing ceremony), though other bills passed at the same time were entered into the legislative database and sent out as email notifications to those following the bills.  This bill—Senate Bill 744—was not. From the Oregonian:

Gov. Kate Brown had demurred earlier this summer regarding whether she supported the plan passed by the Legislature to drop the requirement that students demonstrate they have achieved those essential skills. But on July 14, the governor signed Senate Bill 744 into law.

Through a spokesperson, the governor declined again Friday to comment on the law and why she supported suspending the proficiency requirements.

Brown’s decision was not public until recently, because her office did not hold a signing ceremony or issue a press release and the fact that the governor signed the bill was not entered into the legislative database until July 29, a departure from the normal practice of updating the public database the same day a bill is signed.

The Oregonian/OregonLive asked the governor’s office when Brown’s staff notified the Legislature that she had signed the bill. Charles Boyle, the governor’s deputy communications director, said the governor’s staff notified legislative staff the same day the governor signed the bill.

It’s not hard to get the impression that the governor and her minions are hiding this bill, but of course the press got wind of it (probably from Republicans who voted against it).  And they have good reason to keep this bill quiet, as it completely eliminates any educational standards

Now you might also guess why the bill was passed. In fact, you don’t have to guess, as the governor’s own staff told us:

The Oregonian/OregonLive asked the governor’s office when Brown’s staff notified the Legislature that she had signed the bill. Charles Boyle, the governor’s deputy communications director, said the governor’s staff notified legislative staff the same day the governor signed the bill.

Boyle said in an emailed statement that suspending the reading, writing and math proficiency requirements while the state develops new graduation standards will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”

“Leaders from those communities have advocated time and again for equitable graduation standards, along with expanded learning opportunities and supports,” Boyle wrote.

You can see Senate bill 744 here.  It mandates a committee from the state Department of Education that will report to the Senate by September 1, 2022, devising new learning standards, and part of the report must include the following. Note that “proficiency in essential learning skills” is not required to receive a diploma up to graduation in 2024 (section 3). As I noted, that’s been extended to 2027.

However, The Oregonian notes that this requirement will actually extend three more years, until the class of 2027 graduates—five years from this fall’s incoming class (my emphasis).

Proponents said the state needed to pause Oregon’s high school graduation requirements, in place since 2009 but already suspended during the pandemic, until at least the class of 2024 graduates in order for leaders to reexamine its graduation requirements. Recommendations for new standards are due to the Legislature and Oregon Board of Education by September 2022.

However, since Oregon education officials have long insisted they would not impose new graduation requirements on students who have already begun high school, new requirements would not take effect until the class of 2027 at the very earliest. That means at least five more classes could be expected to graduate without needing to demonstrate proficiency in math and writing.

As yahoo! news reports, the measure did receive some bipartisan support, passing the state House by 38-13 and the state Senate 16-13. The bill was signed on July 14, but it’s being reported now because the news has apparently just leaked out.

What is going on here? It’s pretty clear that the elimination of proficiency in essential skills is—like the elimination of many standardized tests in high school and for college entrance—part of the dismantling of the meritocracy that goes along with the desire to create academic “equity”. I would guess that the black, Hispanic, and Indigenous students weren’t performing as well as Asian or white students in graduating, and, as Ibram Kendi tells us, inequities of this sort are prima facie evidence of racism. To eliminate the racism, you eliminate the inequities: in this case by eliminating any need for students to be literate and numerate.

This, of course, will create five years in which Oregon high-school graduates can get a high-school diploma without demonstrating the merest proficiency in the skills needed to survive as a citizen in this country. But the playing field has been leveled; all adhere to the same standards—or lack of standards. In this case, a high-school diploma, which previously indicated that the possessor had at least rudimentary reading, writing, and math skills, now means absolutely nothing, and employers will have to discount it.

It’ll be interesting to see what standards the Oregon Department of Education comes up with next year. Will those standards depend on the background of the student? What will be the “alternative methods for students to demonstrate proficiency in skills or academic content areas that are not related to career and technical education”?

Sometimes I despair that, over the coming decades, all standards will be eliminated in the name of equity—save those standards, like flying airplanes or being a surgeon—that must be maintained lest people die.  It seems to me far better to tackle the problem at the root: doing the hard work of providing equal opportunity for all Americans from the moment of birth, rather than doing this kind of invidious touch-up that does nothing to solve the problem of inequality and, in fact, damages public education.

As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats, but the Oregon tide is a falling one, and will mire all boats in the mud.

98 thoughts on “Oregon quietly eliminates all standards in reading, writing, and math for getting a high-school diploma

    1. Sadly, yes. My sister lives in Oregon and has met Kate Brown a few times when campaigning for gun control – she’s been quite a fan over the governor’s handling of the pandemic, too. It’ll be interesting to hear what she makes of this latest decision, though.

    2. Yes. Also “the racism of low expectations.”

      Perhaps the bill was slipped in under the public radar because they feared debate would make marginalized peoples feel Unsafe.

      1. My father-in-law clued me in to this just this morning. My son is graduating in 2025 and I’m afraid this is going to hurt his diploma. My guess is that they kept this under the radar fearing backlash from the public, because none of this makes sense in the long run. You don’t just take something away without having something to replace it.

  1. What she’s done in signing this disgraceful bill is exactly equivalent to ensuring that industry across-the-board satisfies all environmental protection mandates by passing legislation which eliminates all such mandates. No more regulation—problem solved!

  2. It’s too bad that Oregon’s Far Lefties couldn’t have found a big rock that should be moved instead.

    What’s really amazing with incidents like this is that they don’t seem to realize how totally ineffective such moves are against racism. Papering over evidence of racism prolongs racism and is, therefore, itself racist?

  3. This should save the state’s tax payers lots of money. There is no longer any need for high school at least so shut them down. I do not understand why you would even continue having education if you have no standards for reading, writing and arithmetic? Lots of teachers will need to be reeducated to go into other trades.

    1. Yes, it does raise the question of the purpose of schools now. I suppose they remain convenient, required, public-funded centers for propagandizing the young. Woke madrassas, if you will.

      1. I am sure that one COULD get an excellent education in most America high schools if a student selects the right coursework. However, it is also true that, for some non-trivial fraction of students, a high school diploma is essentially a certificate of sufficient attendance. Those of us who teach incoming college students at public universities have observed this for a long time, well before this unfortunate lowering or elimination of standards in Oregon.

  4. It’ll be interesting to see what standards the Oregon Department of Education comes up with next year.

    Ah hah ha, hah ha, ha. Sorry, my apologies for the slight rudeness and cynicism. More above board: I do not believe they will come up with new, substantive standards next year. Maybe not the year after that. Maybe not at all.

    If the legislature really thought they’d get a report on revised standards next year, there would be no reason to suspend the current standards, they could just replace the current ones then. This is, IMO, the liberal Oregonian equivalent of the GOP’s stated plan to first remove Obamacare, then replace it with something better: Removal is the point, ‘replace with better’ is what you say to get away with it.

    I *hope* I’m wrong, of course. But the fact remains that there is simply no reason to repeal a set of standards while you work on an improved set. Just imagine if the Dept. of Transportation decided to update seat belt standards, and said ‘okay, for the next few years while we work on the new standards, car manufacturers need meet no seat belt standards at all.’ That’s just not the way sincere attempts to improve important regulations are done.

      1. Amazing how we are lowering our standards for/of our future generations instead of raising them. You call this progress?

        1. If you don’t want to spend tax money on schools to improve the education of disadvantaged groups, the only way to achieve equality might be lowering standards.

  5. Booker T. Washington was mocked for emphasizing vocational education for former slaves and their children. W.E.B. Du Bois spoke of “the talented tenth” in the Black community. These new Oregon rules give us nothing, and support the suspicion that embarrassment is the driving force behind the new rules, not progress. Or, perhaps, they believe the junk science that says a high school diploma serves as an automatic ticket to college, and it is that which will guarantee more in income and status over one’s lifetime, The diploma is nothing more than a piece of paper if it is not backed up by some knowledge or acquired skills.

    1. There’s also the possibility that politicians have embraced the junk epistemology of Other Ways of Knowing.

      “Mary didn’t have what you might call “book learning,” but her personal experiences, native intuitions, and deep conviction of what she knew to be True was much, much more important for every kind of success.”

  6. Why eliminate standards while new ones are being developed? Seems like this will effectively punish students able to meet the qualification standards during the interim. What’s next? Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron” comes to mind. I always thought Vonnegut’s premise was deliberately absurd but maybe we’ll come to that.

    1. The right has long used Harrison Bergeron as a straw man alarmist claim of what the left wants to do.
      I don’t think it really applies here (Oregon is not forcing high-performing kids to work harder for the same grades or same diploma), but I’m willing to agree that the far-left is getting more Bergerony.

      1. I don’t think this is a strawman, at least not for the far left. (I continue to be told I am straw-manning the left.)

        They want to eliminate merit as a criterion.

        They want to replace capitalism and free markets with Marxism. Many are quite frank about this. See the links on defunding the police from yesterday or the day before (what is their alternative to Capitalism?).

        Michael J. Sandel (in an interview on NPR) used the following example: Two building contractors, one very good at building houses, the other poor at it.

        Builder #1 completes a house in 12 weeks.
        Builder #2 completes a house in 36 weeks.

        According to Sandel, Builder #2 deserves more compensation because he “had to work harder” to complete the house. This is rewarding incompetence.

        Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government Theory at Harvard University Law School. Is Sandel the fringe (a strawman)? Maybe; but a named chair at Harvard?

        1. Rewarding incompetence == Marxism? I doubt if Karl saw it that way.

          The argument that Far Lefties who want to eliminate merit and capitalism are Marxists is weak. It’s similar in form to the one made yesterday claiming those who want to actually defund the police are anarchists. It’s fair to call them bad ideas because they will produce poor results: anarchy in one case, incompetence in the other. It’s not fair to say that they actually strive for those results.

          1. Certainly Mao in the Cultural Revolution ended entrance examinations into Chinese Colleges and there was “affirmative action” based on class, children of peasants were provided preferences over children of landlords. [I think Cambodia didn’t have this problem because they shot the landlords and all their families, in their version of “cut down the tall trees” as they .]

            It certainly accords with Marxist-Leninist Mao Ze Dong thought, at least during the height of the Cultural Revolution. Obviously, Deng’s “Experience is the Sole Criterion of Truth” represented a change in course.

            However, I agree that the people promulgating this are Marxists, they are upper middle class enough that they will not be affected by their own policies, and cynical enough not to care about the consequences for everyone else. The idea is to destroy public services so that rich people won’t have to pay any taxes and can afford to fund their own private services like Brazil. The Black and Brown people they care so much about are a lot like the sick people in the hospitals where Hamas conducts terrorist operations out of the basement.

          2. Typos: “Cut down the tall trees” was a Hutu slogan during the Rwandan Civil War, expressing the Rwandan solution to insufficient Equity. It was similar to the Khmer Rouge class-based mass murders.

            However, these people are NOT Marxists, they are wealthy BoBo poseurs aping Marxist platitudes.

          3. Please point out where I said rewarding incompetence = Marxism?

            I should have pulled the Marxism comment to the bottom, after the meritocracy discussion. Bad editing.

            Marxism does imply leveling, including removing meritocracy (bourgeois elites shall have their privileges taken away).

            Michael J. Sandel advocates getting rid of meritocracy. Harvard chair. Many on the left (many) are clearly advocating for the removal of Capitalism and free markets from the USA. I can’t judge either of these as anything other than striving for the stating goals.

          4. What is your evidence that they don’t strive for those results, Paul? How do you know what’s in their heads? Don’t you have to start with the assumption that people who strive to bring bad ideas to fruition desire those results? Else why would they strive?

            “In calling to defund the police, I’m not striving for anarchy and more unsolvable crime in Black neighbouhoods, even though that’s what clearly will happen if my calls are heeded.” That doesn’t make sense to me. Seems incumbent on us to ask, “But you must be. So then why are you striving for anarchy and social disorder? What gains do you expect to accrue to yourself if you are successful?” If the non-answer is, “Check your white privilege,” we can draw conclusions from that.

          5. Wow, you are going back to this discussion from months ago? I had to reread what I wrote to refresh myself.

            People with bad ideas usually (always?) think they are good ideas. They expect some outcome. Those who disagree with them expect a different outcome. This isn’t always the case but often.

            In this case, those that put equity over merit probably think the world will be better for it. It will result in more social justice and they think that merit creates inequality of the worst kind. It separates elites from those they rule. Those that disagree think that merit has produced the modern world and, by and large, that’s been a success. They also think that people will always divide into elites and non-elites. That’s human nature and the way of the world. That’s a good thing as long as everyone has the opportunity to move up in the world based on a fair measure of their merit. Both sides are trying to do good but have different ideas of how to get there and what “there” looks like.

          6. I’m really sorry, Paul I have no idea how I got to this thread. I assumed it was fresh, to my great embarrassment. I do apologize for not paying attention to the dates. I appreciate your taking the trouble to answer.

        2. They want to eliminate merit as a criterion.

          That does seem to be what’s going on here, and it is Bergeron-like, but it’s not Bergeron. HB was forced to wear weights and things that interfered with his senses to bring his performance down to average. That’s really nothing like what’s going on here; Oregon is choosing to not measure performance. An HB-world actually requires quite a lot of performance measuring to accomplish, because you have to know who to penalize. A HB-Oregon would be one where if your grades were C’s last year, you get +10 points (out of 100) on all assignments this year, while if your grades were A’s last year, you get -10 points on all assignments this year. Or, to use a literal story plot, a HB-Oregon would be one where anyone getting A’s last year must wear noise-blasting headphones in class this year to interfere with their ability to concentrate.

          Nerd nitpicking rant ended. 🙂

        3. I haven’t been able to find any interview like that with Dr. Sandel, and he has a LOT of interviews with NPR stations, do you have any more documentation? I listened to two interviews, and it doesn’t sound like anything he would say.

        4. Hold on! “People on the left” – myself, PCC (E) and many others here DON’T want to destroy capitalism. We abhor Marxism. At all. Or common standards in education. Don’t defame an entire ideology by the yelping and virtue signaling of its shrillest and stupidest members……
          or we’ll end up calling all conservatives white supremacists. Same game.
          Put the Fox-news pipe down plz.

    1. They’re replacing meritocracy with a caste system. The wealthy will send their kids to schools whose degrees are valued, giving their kids an even high start on the social ladder compared to what they get now. While the poor will not have that option, and so their kids will remain down on the ladder (even more than they may already be).

  7. It is almost a quarter of a century since the publication in Britain of a celebrated book ‘ All must have Prizes ‘ by then Guardian and Observer columnist Melanie Phillips. She analysed and criticised the sort of thinking which appears now to be coming to the fore in Oregon. Sad to say not much has changed significantly in the UK and sad also to have to recognise that Oregon is unlikely to be alone in the promulgation of such policies.

  8. Clearly it’s better that a hundred people die in a plane crash than a pilot from Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color should be exposed to ‘expectations’ of other groups.

    And when Oregon’s graduates fail to get reasonable jobs or access to higher education in few years time I’ll guess that will be because of ‘racism’ too.

    1. It’s probably not the Oregonian students on the college track we have to worry about. Elimination of minimal diploma requirements isn’t going to affect them at all, since ‘minimal diploma’ isn’t what they’re going for. They’re trying to get A’s in honors and AP courses and write essays as part of their admissions packages.

      It’ll hurt the approximately 45% of Oregonian students who don’t go on to college, as their diploma is their ‘finishing’ degree, the one they’ll use to enter the job market.

    2. In higher education, the number and size of remedial classes could need to be expanded. We who teach college know this well, as we see freshmen who literally have no business being in college.

      1. Remedial classes are a barrier to student success, and thus colleges are eliminating them. Expectations for entry-level credit-bearing courses are being adjusted so that all entering students can succeed in them.


  9. Presumably employers will now set some kind of proficiency test as part of their recruitment process when it comes to hiring school leavers from the cohorts affected by the new bill?

  10. If i read this correctly, I think: With the tsunami of the standards movement in K12 education in the 80’s and early 90’s, all states created minimum “content standards” for all courses and for the past 20 – 25 years or so, students have had to pass end of course exams in certain courses to demonstrate that they had mastered these required minimum sets of knowledge and skills. In Virginia, the cut-off scores for passing were reset every few years by the state board of ed (and they were pretty low per centages!) As many had predicted, unfortunately, the test and thus minimum content became almost the total focus of some school districts and some teachers. The good side of these standards was that they assured or at least listed the minimum content such as math, physics, chemistry, and English, that a teacher must teach everywhere in the state. This had the positive effect of assuring that the most clueless teacher who may have had a lackluster education in math thirty years ago, was at least aware of what math she was expected to teach her students today. The standards tests also showed which schools were really failing their students, thus allowing some remediation to their programs. The public standards were revised every few years, offering subject matter experts from university content area departments, industry, and government research labs to provide information to the state board on current issues that should lead to changes in the standards (e.g. adding quarks or plasma as a state of matter to physics standards) in various subjects. Of course in many states, the revision process is tightly control by the dept of education staff which is change and risk averse and the final approval of the new standards is in the hands of the state board which often has no content expertise in areas such as science, math, or engineering….but the structure was there.
    Even without standards testing, students must pass the end of course tests (like in the 60’s, 70’s, ….). So it is not as if there is no longer any meritocracy. The kids still will have gpa’s but they will be based on whatever an individual teacher teaches and tests…pretty much like how many of us went through K12 in the 50’s and 60’s)…for better or worse.

    1. “The standards tests also showed which schools were really failing their students, thus allowing some remediation to their programs.”

      Would the standard tests also reasonably show some not insignificant number of students who couldn’t trouble themselves to study – thereby failing themselves – regardless of how highly qualified/competent their teachers are?

      If there are no meaningful standards as with this Oregon measure, then it seems that the “My teacher should have made me . . . .” excuse, which some laggard, misbehaving students are wont to employ, becomes less defendable, or irrelevant.

  11. What a pernicious message this sends to non-white students in Oregon: we don’t think you’re smart enough to meet the standards, but we’ll just let you graduate anyway. This is a truly offensive policy. How about targeting additional educational resources at students that are falling behind? Oh, that costs money, and we’re not that anti-racist.

  12. Judging by the capabilities of some of my undergrad students, I had assumed that this was already the case across the country. So props to Oregon for being honest about it. A high school degree is merely evidence of attendance.

    1. Maybe the U.S. will eventually impose economic sanctions on them if they don’t remove their requirements/lower their standards.

      (I wonder if the NY Times will have an editorial position on the Oregon measure.)

  13. Boyle said in an emailed statement that suspending the reading, writing and math proficiency requirements while the state develops new graduation standards will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”

    This is saying that white people do better than others at learning to read and write at school. therefore, requiring people to be able to read and write is racist. The only rational reason for removing standards of reading and writing and maths is

    a) you don’t believer these skills are important


    b) you believe that non whites are intrinsically less able to demonstrate these skills to a satisfactory level

    I don’t believe that either of those points are true and point (b) is racist. If non whites are failing to meet some standard, the answer is not to do away with the standard but to find out why the non whites are not meeting the standards and then fix the problem. Unfortunately, the latter is much more difficult than the former.

  14. Living the neoliberal dream, how do we destroy public schools and drive everyone *who matters* into gated communities with private security and private schools?

    I know, let’s defund the police and gut educational standards so that a high school diploma becomes a participation trophy. Go Equity! I haven’t felt this proud of myself as a white person since I last attended a George Floyd rally in my all-white neighborhood.

  15. better to tackle the problem at the root: doing the hard work of providing equal opportunity for all Americans from the moment of birth,

    Short of immediately changing children’s parents through mass adoption, that has already been done for many years; heavily minority school school districts receive more funding than white districts (Head Start, etc), but it has had no positive effect (extremely well documented here); the same goes for interracial adoption.

    It’s a mystery.

  16. This bill is obviously BS, but what SHOULD we do as a country to ensure our children receive an appropriate education? Public schools are often not serving the needs of students an parents (anecdote: neighbor in Pittsburgh was a teacher in city public schools. She had problems with students being distracted by their phones. So she made a quilt with pockets and names and had the students drop their phones in before class and obviously retrieve them after. No good, she was told she could not force students to give up their property).

    Libertarians promote school vouchers. I know those on the left often hate the idea of public funds being funneled to often religious schools. Not to mention a huge infrastructure of administrators and unionized teachers whose livelihood depends on public funding. But if a private school was forced to not discriminate (e.g., a Catholic school would have to accept any student with a voucher whether they were Catholic or not) and if the schools were required to meet educational standards (e.g. a private evangelical school must teach evolution), then I could see where it might work.

    I think it is obvious that continuing on our current path is unsustainable.

    1. We seem to have entered an era where we simultaneously have too much freedom and fear the installation of a authoritarian dictator intent on eliminating democracy. In the old days, the idea that we couldn’t take a kid’s toy away in school would be considered ridiculous. Similarly, not getting vaccinated for a dangerous disease would also cause much head scratching. Some sort of re-evaluation and reshuffling of priorities is due. Let’s hope we survive it.

    2. if a private school was forced to not discriminate (e.g., a Catholic school would have to accept any student with a voucher whether they were Catholic or not) and if the schools were required to meet educational standards (e.g. a private evangelical school must teach evolution), then I could see where it might work.

      First, unfortunately both of those things are often why private religious school are set up – so the school can decide who goes to it, and so they don’t have to adhere to content regulations they disagree with.

      Second, that would still not work, IMO, since that private system is one where the US government is spending tax dollars on a school that forces Jewish kids to pray Christian prayers (and so forth). IMO, as long as the state is compelling you to go to school, the state must ensure you aren’t compelled to worship during that school time. We need a secular state-supported system that welcomes all, has the practical resources to teach all, and compels worship of none.

  17. The attack on proficiency standards, testing regimes, and advanced and honors classes, continues in parallel with the trend to introduce different standards: namely Diversity Statements, in university hiring and grant assessment. Utopia will be achieved when credentials for all professions are based on faithfulness to D/E/I doctrine, rather than on mere knowledge of specific subject matters—thus resembling the typical department of grievance studies today. The virtues of this way of doing things were amply illustrated in the triumphs of Michurinist Biology in the late-lamented USSR, as well as in the dazzling economic performance of the USSR and its satellites.

    I suppose this is why contemporary woke, “Progressive” doctrines are sometimes accused of stemming from Marxism. But this is misleading. The woke superstitions represent tunnel-vision utopian fantasy—like the fantasy that abolishing the police will make crime disappear. States which
    based their organization on Marxism (of a sort) fortified rather than abolished their police. And they
    attempted to maintain proficiency standards in some areas, such as Physics and weapons design.

  18. When I was a student at the University of Oregon, many years ago, we were told that the University, because it was a State supported institution and because it supplied many, if not most, of the teachers at Oregon high schools, felt itself obligated to accept to freshman standing any graduate of an Oregon high school who applied. The University did not, however accept an obligation to promote every freshman to sophomore standing, and great was the carnage at the end of a freshman year. Many freshmen were dismayed to learn that they would not be returning for a second year! I do not know whether the University, which as I understand it, now receives less support from the state, still considers itself to be so obliged regarding first year applicants.

    1. Was your experience quite a while ago? That seems demographically unfeasible now. California promises it’s students that the top 10% (or about that) will be accepted to either the UC or CalState system, and even just to meet that 10% promise, they had to build a bunch of extra Universities. They could never make a 100% graduates promise. I can’t imagine UO could do that either (at least not now).

  19. Oregon has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the county. This change in requirements for a high school diploma is most likely not about improving education but increasing graduation rates.

  20. I’d like to pass along a question asked by a former student. She was a competent, hard working student, but a horrible test taker. Throughout her school career, this student tested well below her ability. When she applied to graduate schools, she had good grades and excellent (stellar) recommendations, but just barely above average GRE scores (I can’t remember the actual scores but say very low 500s).

    Her question: Why should 3 hours out of my school career matter more than anything else — any other achievement, and all the hard work I put in from K-12 through 4 years as an undergraduate?

    My question: why do you all put so much faith in standardized test scores that we know penalize a large segment of the school population. Why do you define meritocracy in terms of standardized test scores?

    1. I think all schools take both grades and standardized tests (well, used to) into account for admission purposes.

      How did she do on finals at university?
      Did she get into grad school eventually?

      Did she get test-taking help (classes, coaching)? Seems like is she’s bright and can score well on university-level course exams, she should be able to perform well on standardized tests. I always found standardized tests (as opposed to professional-certification type tests) to ridiculously easy. I found university finals much more difficult.

      If she were rejected for graduate schooling based solely on GRE scores, that seems like a dumb decision.

    2. I don’t find a story about one student very compelling. Clearly she could have some kind of learning disorder. In fact, it’s weird that we hear this story without even a hint as to what was done to look into her test-taking deficit. If a basketball player worked hard on defense and offense but could hardly ever make a basket, we would look into why that was the case.

      Assuming this student had no particular identifiable problems with test taking, is the theory is that this student substituted raw hard work (ie, long hours) for raw intelligence? That can work in some jobs but not in others and probably not in grad school. If it’s not that, then what?

    3. It does not and never has. Test scores on standardized tests in conjunction with grades are the best predictors of academic success. There are plenty of people who score high on tests but lack sufficient drive (as reflected in poor grades). There are plenty of people who do well in grades (which is on a curve) who may be the proverbial big fish in a small pond who might not do as well on tests. Hence both have always been considered.

      However, we are talking about eliminating basic proficiency in reading and math, not about high GRE scores. Is it asking too much that a high school diploma requires basic literacy? Further, what is the point of HS if graduates can’t perform basic minimal competencies? Why not just run a big day care or put everyone on probation? Why call it is a school, just call it a day program for juveniles.

    4. My experience applying to grad schools was: grades, GREs, recommendations, research – three good ones on your resume, you’ll do fine.

      Why should 3 hours out of my school career matter more than anything else

      She’s applying/applied to grad school, and she doesn’t know about oral thesis defenses? If she thinks 3 hrs sitting at a desk filling out multiple choice bubbles is stressful, wait ’til she has to take the adult version of ‘three hours determines your career.’

  21. I’m sure this has been said already; but I have an awesome solution to Global Warming: Destroy all thermometers. And thermal imaging satellites. And sea-level measuring stations. And glacier measuring instruments. Problem solved!

    1. Great idea. Then while they’re at it, they can just destroy all the grid-scale storage capacity for unreliable power that hasn’t been invented yet while all those thermometers are flinging us into the pit of Net-Zero.

  22. Sooner or later the pendulum will have to swing back towards seeing low expectations for groups as an expression of bigotry, because they are. People who graduate despite being illiterate will start suing their school districts again for not providing them with an education, and we eventually will have a new No Child Left Behind. Rinse and repeat. I don’t see what gets us out of this cycle.

    1. “People who graduate despite being illiterate will start suing their school districts again for not providing them with an education . . . .”

      Some of those graduates might ought themselves be sued for wasting taxpayer money by their not being interested in an education and for not lifting a finger to do any academic work. (“My teacher should have made me . . . .”)

      1. I think the correct syntax for those graduates is, “My teacher should of made me. . . ”

        I had to chuckle from the headline screenshot that the governor doesn’t want to talk about it. What is she going to do? She can’t write about it and no one in Oregon will be able to read about it..

    1. What is it about Bait Shops that I find so appealing? hmmm. I do like to flyfishing…doesn’t explain it. Perhaps it’s crabbing that is the allure.

  23. Not having to bother with regular academic subjects will free up a lot of time to make the kids recite Marxist revolutionary slogans, I suppose.
    Smash the four olds! Smash the gang of four! Reject the Revisionist Theses – Uphold Marxism-Leninism!

  24. I figure this will greatly help the athletes; could that be any form of motive? Is Oregon known for great teams? I don’t follow college sports unless it’s in my state, and even then… I know, I’m a poser and should be cancelled.

    1. The ducks have a very good football team, at least pre-Covid. But as I said above about the (academically) college-bound, I don’t think these folks are the ones who will be negatively affected. A desirable athlete is going to get private tutoring thrown in with their scholarship. The school will do what it can to make up for any academic deficiencies. The folks who will be hurt by this are the ones who don’t go past H.S., don’t have anyone giving them a safety net, and who have to rely on their diploma and HS education to get a decent job.

  25. Things haven’t changed much since I graduated form HS back in 79, the jocks were treated like royalty they rarely had to do any work and the trouble makers were passed along just to get rid of them, the rest of use were just given busy work. Colleges arent much better, we grade college in this country by their football team and not by the courses they offer.

  26. Sorry to weigh in late. First I agree with the overarching tenor of the original piece. Eliminating any graduation standards for several years of graduates is a terrible disservice to those students. Second, I think that many respondents on this thread are unfairly representing the governor’s decision. Oregon is not removing “all standards” so much as they are making a judgement: the (previous) standards in place do not serve the purpose for which they are intended and that the state is actually worse off in promoting inequitable standards. I personally disagree, but I think that I have some sympathy for the argument. The argument probably goes something like this: The state currently requires people to demonstrate the necessary proficiency to productively enter society by doing X, Y and Z; unfortunately we now believe that X, Y and Z do not align with the basic requirements of good citizenship and may even select against the basic requirements of good citizenship insofar as said requirement are biased against underrepresented ethnic groups. I suspect that all of Oregon wants standards. The two questions are: [1] what do such standards look like – and how are they measured, and [2] how does one transition from one system to the next. As outrageous as it sounds to leave seven years worth of education un-measured, consider the alternative for just a minute. Imagine that you enter school, the teachers teach you in one particular fashion or another, and then the year before you graduate, a new set of standards *for which you are entirely unpreprepared* is imposed on you. As a consequence, you fail to graduate on time. Having said that, I would expect that a new set of standards will fairly, justly and equitably measure the standards of good citizenship. As such, I would equally expect that students should NOT need coaching or teachers who “teach to the test” in order to pass. Is this not the same point that De Blasio argues with respect to the select high schools in New York City? Asian kids, who live in one-room apartments with their three generations of immigrant relatives and study in the Flushing Public Library after school and on weekends when they should instead feed their dreams of athletic, entertainment or celebrity stardom by watching television or playing sports, should not benefit unfairly from costly test-prep. The current tests are prima facia racist as evidenced by their unequal outcomes. One clearly need not control for inputs and efforts because unlike athletics, entertainment and celebrity where outcomes are also racially imbalanced, we all have equal academic capabilities and to suggest otherwise is racist; on the other hand, our propensity for success in athletics, entertainment and celebrity are inherent and so it is simply an inherent truth that Asian kids, as affirmed by none other than the Harvard Admissions Committee, are universally less charismatic, less social, and lack leadership qualities.

    1. First, read the Roolz, your comment is too long. Second, you lost your whole argument when you said “the current tests are prima facie racist as evidenced by their unequal outcomes”. Are you serious? That makes no sense at all.

      You are adhering to the Kendian nonsense that inequities are prima facie evidence of racism. That’s not only demonstrably untrue, but irrational.

  27. We are certainly living in interesting times.

    The difference between left and right has become extremely diffuse. Politics is uniformly rejecting rationality, including the notion of empiricism and truth, along with science and realism. “Woke” postmodernists who decry the scientific method for being “racist” are strangely echoing the basic message of their ostensible foes, the religious fundamentalists: that intellectual inquiry is dangerous to moral sentiments and ordained hierarchies.

    On the one hand, you have feminists who aver that biological sex is a construct, and LGBTQ+I activists who lay claim to limitless “genders,” and BLM demagogues who evidently adhere to white oligarchs’ notion that nonwhites are genetically incapable of receiving a high-quality education. On the other hand, you have Trump supporters who believe germ theory is a hoax, evangelicals who assert that evolution is fraudulent, and homeopaths who reject modern medicine.

    Between the two “warring” camps, one can effectively “cancel” all human knowledge. So the two “camps” are actually united in rejecting a central premise of man’s existence: his capacity to know and understand the very nature of reality, even on the simplest level. Both “sides” also prefer a caste-based society, in which white, learned aristocrats rule over a degenerate “woke” mass whose stations are fixed from birth, social mobility being nonexistent, nonwhites being confined to the lower orders, albeit fed daily “woke” slogans.

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