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Parents: Oregon diplomas now “participation trophies”

By Jake Beardslee · October 26, 2023

In brief…

  • Oregon school board drops standardized testing requirement for graduation, extends pandemic pause
  • Parent group says it makes diplomas meaningless "participation trophies"
  • Board cites marginalizing minority and disabled students
  • Parent group argues should help students meet standards, not eliminate them
Oregon extended its pandemic pause on requiring standardized testing for high school graduation until 2027, drawing criticism from a parents group that diplomas are now meaningless without literacy and math standards.  Purplybunny/Wikimedia

An Oregon-based parental rights group said it was unsurprised by the Oregon State Board of Education’s decision to remove the requirement for students to show mastery in reading, writing, and mathematics through standardized testing to graduate high school.

Oregon Moms Union President MacKensey Pulliam told Fox News Digital that “It’s not surprising that they’ve continued to push off the implementation of new graduation requirements.” She argued the tests serve as checkpoints to ensure students are ready or get extra help if needed.

“I think that proficiency rates here in Oregon are dismal, and they’re not getting better,” Pulliam said. “Part of me wonders is, you know, are they removing these standards so that it looks like students are actually doing better?”

Last week, the state board unanimously voted to extend suspending the requirement for 11th graders to show competency in essential skills of reading, writing, and math through standardized testing or portfolio work beyond coursework.

Students who failed to show proficiency were to make up for it in 12th grade to graduate. Tests will still occur but not factor into diplomas. Failing students won’t have to make up either.

Board member Vicky Lopez Sanchez insisted no assessment was removed, only “inappropriate use.” She said this serves students’ best interests in a board meeting.

The freeze now continues until 2027 after being enacted in 2021 by former Governor Kate Brown during the pandemic.

Pulliam said Oregon high school diplomas are now “participation trophies” without ensuring 11th grade literacy and numeracy.

The board cited marginalizing students of color and disabilities by how results were used. Research showed outcomes predicted by race and disability status.

The freeze allows collaboration on new policies serving students better, per the Department of Education.

Pulliam said parents are frustrated and think standards should be raised, not lowered.