SALEM, OR – The Democratic Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, signed a bill last month – Senate Bill 744 – that has suspended the proficiency requirement for reading, writing, and math for graduating High School seniors in an effort to help “students of color” and “those who do not test well.”
The bill was quietly signed and reports indicate that Governor Brown has allegedly avoided discussing the new bill, and that no public signing ceremony was held, nor was any press release sent out to announce it. The bill was signed on July 14, but reportedly not added to the state’s database until the end of the month.
State lawmakers voted to pass the bill in June, which drops proficiency requirements for graduating students for three years. However, despite the fact that the bill was only passed at the start of the summer, reports indicate that the proficiency requirement was initially suspended at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist students who were engaged in virtual classes.
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According to a statement put out by Foundations for a Better Oregon – who, according to their website, is an advocacy group that is “reimagining how Oregon supports every child to learn, grow, and thrive” – the bill will “truly reflect what every student needs to thrive in the 21st century.”
Those who were in support of the bill reportedly say that considering the ability to read, write, or do math as “essential” is unfair to those who don’t perform well when tested on those skills. In addition, Governor Brown’s deputy communications director, Charles Boyle, stated that the new graduation standards – or lack thereof – will help benefit Oregon’s “Black, Latino, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color,” although he did not elaborate as to how.
Republicans have come out against the bill, with Oregon House Minority Leader Christine Drazan saying that it essentially sets up new grads to fail.
“The approach for Senate Bill 744 is to, in fact, lower our expectations for our kids,” she said. “This is the wrong time to do that, when we have had this year of social isolation and lost learning. It’s the wrong thing to do in this moment.”
In addition, a local newspaper – The Oregonian – published an editorial in June, urging Governor Brown to veto the bill.