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Gov. Kate Brown

Oregon Gov. strips reading, writing, and math from graduation requirements

In Oregon, you can now graduate without knowing how to read, write or be proficient in math.

Oregon’s governor has signed Senate Bill 744 (pdf) states that students “may not be required to show proficiency in Essential Learning Skills as a condition of receiving a high school diploma” in the next three school years.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown quietly signed the bill into law last month and kept it secret until this week. It was only exposed when it was finally entered into the legislative database, according to The Oregonian.

“This 2021 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist, and this 2021 Act takes effect on its passage,” the bill states.

The Oregon House passed the bill 38–18 followed by the state Senate in a 16–13 vote.

Charles Boyle, an aide to the Democrat governor, told the paper that suspending the proficiency requirements 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 added.

The bill suspends the requirements while a review is conducted. The Oregon Department of Education is guided to evaluate, in part, high school diploma requirements in other states. Officials also must identify “the causes of disparities that have resulted from the requirements for high school diplomas in this state” and “whether the requirements for high school diplomas in this state have been applied inequitably to different student populations.”

The Oregon Education Association supported the bill. It says on its website that it has worked for years to eliminate the essential skills test, claiming the test “can act as a one-size-fits all standardized test barrier to graduation for students who may otherwise have more than enough proficiency and skill to graduate and go on to great success.”

The new law is being opposed by business leaders across the state who say basic skills like reading and simple math are needed for a strong workforce.