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A child does not need to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, or arithmetic to graduate.
So, you live in Oregon and are wondering why so many people keep saying you should start homeschooling your kid right away?
What’s the big deal, and how essential is it?
Well, here it is: with the new No Essential Skills graduation requirement, students can graduate illiterate.
Homeschooling is now more important than ever.
Homeschooling offers the perfect solution: a curriculum that stretches young minds in ways that traditional classroom learning simply cannot.
Let us take a closer look at why this revolutionary change has made homeschooling an essential consideration for Oregon families.
Oregon has long been recognized for its progressive policies and its emphasis on education.
I received my masters in teaching there.
My final project was on the CIM and the CAM (Certificate of Initial or Advanced Mastery), a radical look at how we educate our youth, how to retain them in high school, and how to best serve them after they graduate.
I loved the CIM and the CAM concept.
It never got off the ground because the public was afraid that if students chose the CIM, they would be “stuck” in a non college track and never able to go to college later.
This was not true, but the important thing is Oregon had high standards, they thought of their students futures, and the public voted it down.
Oregon introduced and passed a new groundbreaking educational policy.
This one, like the CIM and the CAM has raised eyebrows and sparked a heated debate.
In my opinion, this has lowered standards and our kids not only lost in this policy, but so did our society.
What policy was passed in Oregon?
Covid (ugh it always goes back to this!) changed so much in our country.
Our educators had no idea what to do with students being at home.
Regardless of what they tried, your child was not able to get their full year and a half of school in; they are “behind.”
I put that in quotes, simply because, now everyone is “behind” the same amount, it was a global experience.
During this time, Oregon put a pause on graduation requirements (as did many states).
What this means is that if you were graduating in 2020-2022 you did not have to demonstrate that you actually learned anything.
You just got the diploma.
Well, October, 2023, the Oregon Department of Education unanimously voted to remove the requirement for Oregon high schoolers to demonstrate basic mastery in reading, writing, and mathematics (essential skills) in order to graduate.
How did students show mastery before?
Graduation requirements are typically met when a student meets a cutoff score in a statewide standardized test, though alternatives can be used for students who opt out of the test, such as samples of classroom work or scores from other tests like the SAT or ACT.
If you have read some of my other articles, you will know I am a huge proponent of assessing via portfolio.
I probably “got” this from my Oregon training.
Oregon also allowed students to demonstrate mastery with their portfolio.
(So they already had an alternative assessment method that did not “slant” a specific way.)
Why was essential skills removed as a requirement?
This blows my mind, there are seven voting members and all of them thought this was a brilliant idea.
I suspect our lawmakers in Oregon were watching what was happening in California.
Oh, and yes, if you are living in California, now is the time to homeschool as well!
In July, 2023, California State Board of Education passed the California Mathematics Project.
The reason for the Mathematics Project and for removing the essential skills requirement in Oregon seems to be the same:
The was the assessment results are attained and are being used is marginalizing students of color and students with disabilities.
The math project is said to “align with those who favor a more thoughtful, potentially slower pacing in math instruction as a civil rights issue.
In their view, too many Latino and Black students and those from low-income families have been left behind as part of a math race in which a small number of students reach calculus.”
So, I am reading, that requiring your child to learn and know basic skills when they graduate has now become a racial issue.
What exactly are basic skills?
I wanted to get this exactly correct.
So, I found a definition of them on Oregon’s state education website .
The Nine Essential Skills are cross-disciplinary skills that students should be developing across grades K- 12.
For students first enrolled in Grade 9 in 2010-2011 or later, three of the Essential Skills are graduation requirements:
a. Read and comprehend a variety of text
b. Write clearly and accurately
c. Apply mathematics in a variety of settings
I left the link to the Nine essential skills in case you are interested in what these are.
When this document was developed, 2010, of the nine essential skills, reading, writing, and applying mathematical skills were the most important.
Now, I wonder if “Demonstrate civil and community engagement” are more important?
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What will students be assessed on to graduate in Oregon?
Students will be assessed based on a broader set of criteria, such as community service, extracurricular involvement, and personal projects.
The intention behind this shift is to ensure that graduation is more equitable and accessible for all students, regardless of their academic abilities.
Hmmm, query: if you are all competing for a prestigious college, isn’t it “easier” to get a really high GPA in projects you are interested in, not assigned, extracurricular clubs, hobbies, and sports, and community service?
It has been asked, “Are the students in Oregon getting a ‘free pass.’”
I argue it is not a ‘free pass’
Hear me out.
It is definitely a free pass for the kids who are not studying or were never planning on learning the material.
It may boost graduation retention, which, to me, means it will artificially boost Oregon’s statistics.
However, for the 61.8% of students in Oregon in 2021 (and that is a drop from previous years) who are heading to college, they are losing out, considerably.
How rigorous is education in Oregon going to be when the focus is no longer on essential skills and is now on “soft skills?”
When a child from Oregon sends in their transcripts to a major university, wow, what if they want to be a veterinarian, will they be seen as “equal” applicants?
Do you have any idea how competitive vet school is?
I see this law not as a ‘free pass’ but as a dream killer to the students who actually want a career.
It does not have to be in a major university.
What if they are excited about being a welder?
They need to go to community college to learn a trade.
In 2015, before any “help” was made to the Oregon education system, an article came out revealing that 75% of all Oregon graduates who went on to community college after high school graduation needed to take remedial classes.
Oregon was already failing to educate their students.
There are pros and cons for this argument, however, I am human and I can only see the bad, worse, and the really awful.
The pros around this argument center around:
- Inequalities in traditional education (tradition is reading, writing, and math?)
- Students should be assessed on a wider range of skills (not traditional ones)
- Traditional academic measures are limiting and do not prepare students for the real world
- We should shift away from academic skills and move towards interpersonal ones
What is our end goal?
It sounds kind of funny, but I think we need to look at the end, what do we want our children to achieve?
I want a society of healthy, happy, contributing citizens, who are able to make educated and informed decisions when they vote and are not needing government assistance.
Yup, I want them to work.
I kind of think that is something we are supposed to do, there should be no free hand out.
So, now, let’s go to our employers.
They see this kid, fresh out of high school who has a high school diploma.
Well, the employer is going to expect that this child knows a basic set of skills, that is why there were in school, after all!
Alas, it turns out the child cannot talk to the public, yes, I do believe interpersonal skills are necessary, they used to be taught in speech.
Oh, and look at that, the new employee also cannot do basic math in their head, so giving change is a nightmare.
Asking them to read invoices has become difficult since some of the terminology is not “small” words.
And asking them to do their continued training on their own, they have not had to “learn” so this simply does not get done.
Well, if this employee was hired they get fired.
In trying so hard to “make everything easy” for children, Oregon and California are instead prolonging a really difficult existence for their children.
Yes, school will be easy.
Yes, their children will most likely graduate.
However, no one has to hire sub standard employees, or worse, employees who lack any kind of knowledge what so ever.
Do you remember the “everyone gets a ribbon” fiasco?
Yup, that was my generation.
We thought our poor children’s feelings would be hurt if they lost.
So, my generation, decided there should be a ribbon for everything.
If you were the best “stand in the field and pick daisies person” on the soccer team, you got a ribbon for that!
What happened? We raised children who had no idea how to fail.
Because they could not fail, they were not resilient, they could not come back when they did fail.
It was devastating.
It is time for the parents of Oregon to make a stand and take control of their children’s educations. No essential skills requirement means that children can coast through school without mastering the basic, foundational skills that will equip them for success beyond graduation. Homeschooling may not be as convenient as public or private education, but it provides an opportunity for greater parental involvement, customized instruction, and a more rigorous education that prioritizes the development of essential skills. Don’t wait — parents in Oregon should enroll their children in homeschooling now. There’s no time to lose!