Oregon Dems Eliminate High School Reading Proficiency Requirement

Gov. Kate Brown guts requirement that high schoolers prove they can read, write, and do math

A sign criticizing Oregon governor Kate Brown (D.) is seen at the ReOpen Oregon Rally on May 2, 2020 in Salem, Oregon. / Getty Images
August 9, 2021

Democratic governor Kate Brown of Oregon signed a bill last month that drops the requirement that high schoolers prove they can read, write, and do math at a basic high school level in order to graduate.

The bill, which the Democratic legislature passed in June in a mostly party-line vote, suspends Oregon's high school graduation requirements for at least five years as the state works to reform its high school standards. A spokesman for the governor's office told the Oregonian that suspending the proficiency requirements will benefit "Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color."

Before the requirements were put on hold during the pandemic, Oregon high schoolers needed to show proficiency in "essential learning skills" to earn their diploma. That meant demonstrating basic skills in reading, writing, and math, which students could prove without taking a test.

The governor signed the bill on July 14 with no fanfare. The move went under the radar for nearly two weeks, according to the Oregonian, because Brown did not hold a ceremony or issue a press release to mark the signing of the bill. Oregon's legislative database was not updated to reflect that the governor signed the bill until July 29. Other bills Brown signed in July were updated in the database the same day she signed them. A state legislative information services administrator attributed the failure to issue a notice that the bill had been signed to a system malfunction.

The governor has not publicly endorsed or commented on the legislation.

Some school districts and states across the country have gutted standards for graduation and admission to advanced-learning schools. Last year, Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia eliminated the merit-based entrance exam at the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School in the name of racial equity. Admissions of Asian students plummeted following the move.

Published under: Democrats , Oregon