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Governor, citing economy, urges delay of new Oregon graduation requirements

Posted by gradefund on November 20, 2008

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/11/governor_delay_higher_diploma.html

Gov. Ted Kulongoski said Friday that he wants to delay Oregon’s new graduation requirements, giving a pass to this year’s high school freshmen, who are supposed to prove their skills in reading, math, speaking and writing to get a diploma.

The more rigorous requirements were enacted by a unanimous Oregon Board of Education in June after nearly three years of study. Joining 26 other states, the Oregon board said schools need to get all students up to par in so-called essential skills before sending them to college and careers.

But Kulongoski, citing the sharp economic downturn, told hundreds of local school board members Friday that he doesn’t think he will be able to find millions of dollars to hire more teachers and upgrade schools to get students to higher standards.

So he will push the state board to delay the higher graduation requirements rather than give schools what he called an “unfunded mandate.”

School board members applauded his remarks, saying they will need more time and money to get the job done.

“It makes sense to me,” said Craig Prewitt, a Phoenix-Talent School Board member and president of the school boards association. “He believes in flexibility, and this will buy us more time.”

However, state school board Chairman Duncan Wyse said the board is unlikely to drop the new requirements entirely.

“We are not going to lose course here. We have to keep this moving at the fastest speed we can with the resources available,” said Wyse, who heads the Oregon Business Council. “We want to encourage schools to do everything they can to keep kids on this trajectory ”

Wyse agreed that the state’s money woes will make it difficult for schools to get their least-prepared students to meet the new exit standards. He said the state board will probably seek a way to delay or scale back some elements of the new graduation standard but to hold others high.

“There are a lot of ways to be creative about how we do that,” Wyse said. For instance, Oregon could delay the new test for math but require students to meet the new reading and speaking standards.

This fall, every public high school in Oregon distributed brochures to every freshman detailing the new requirements they will have to meet to graduate.

Ron Naso, superintendent of North Clackamas schools, said lowering academic requirements to accommodate a budget downturn could lull students, parents and schools into thinking the higher standards will never take effect. State insistence on high standards is a big motivator, he said.

“It’s like what the Gilda Radner character on ‘Saturday Night Live’ used to say: ‘Never mind.’ When you say that enough times, it does start to challenge your credibility. That’s an unfortunate consequence.”

California, Washington and 24 other states require students to pass state exams to get a diploma.

A panel of Oregon educators convened by the state estimated it would cost about $266 million in 2009-11 to equip schools to get all students to meet the new graduation requirements.

The primary costs would be to hire more math, science and reading teachers and to provide more training for teachers already on the job, said Brian Reeder, assistant state superintendent who headed the project. Oregon schools would also need to hire more counselors and provide extra tutoring time — the equivalent of six weeks of summer school for the one-tenth of students at greatest risk of not graduating — to get the job done, his panel found.

Kulongoski cautioned school board members that coming up with that kind of money, given the national economic collapse, “is probably not in the cards.”

He said schools should continue to plan for higher standards and get ready to implement higher levels of teaching once money becomes available — but he said he can’t predict when that will happen. The 2009-11 budget will be the last of his eight years as governor.

“When the money is available to raise the bar on earning a high school diploma, preliminary planning should already be finished so that implementation can begin immediately,” said Kulongoski, who acknowledged that his half-hour speech to the school boards conference was “an exercise in lowering expectations.”

– Betsy Hammond; betsyhammond@news.oregonian.com

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One Response to “Governor, citing economy, urges delay of new Oregon graduation requirements”

  1. gradefund said

    Studies have shown that an increase in spending on education does not necessarily improve the quality of education a student is receiving, nor does it have any correlation to their preparedness for life. According to UNESCO, in areas of the country where the government, both state and federal, has increased spending on education, high school graduation rates and test scores did not rise. The amount of funding an institution has does not dictate the quality of education a student gets. You do not necessarily need the best facilities to get the best education. “Money woes” should not effect the state’s ability to better educate its least prepared students.

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