Oregon Gov. Kate Brown quietly signed into law on July 14 a bill that allows high school students to graduate without proving they are proficient in reading, writing or arithmetic. According to the Oregonian, the governor has repeatedly denied a request for comment on the new law and why she supports ending proficiency requirements.
“Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this subsection, the State Board of Education may not require a student who has successfully completed the credit requirements prescribed by paragraph (a) of this subsection or by rule of the board to demonstrate proficiency in any skill or academic content area,” the legislation states.
When Brown signed the law back in July, her office did not issue a press release or hold a ceremony for the signing. The Oregonian reported that the law was also not entered into the legislative database until July 29, despite being signed more than two weeks prior. The delayed update is not common practice in Oregon, where the database is usually revised on the same day the legislation is signed.
In contrast, several bills that Brown signed into law on July 19, including one establishing a training program for childcare and preschool providers in an effort to reduce suspensions and expulsions of young children, were updated immediately. Email notifications were also distributed to those who requested to track the legislation.
In an emailed statement to the outlet, Charles Boyle, Brown’s deputy communications director, said suspending the proficiency requirements for reading, writing and math will help the state’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 wrote.
Oregon’s proficiency standards previously required that all high school students demonstrate at least a 10th-grade competency level in reading, writing, and math, but the standards were suspended as the government response to COVID-19 forced students to leave the classroom and attend school almost entirely online.
Oregon Democrats overwhelmingly supported the new measure, while state Republicans slammed it as lowering academic standards.
The Oregon Department of Education has been ramping up its efforts to combat “inequity” in the classroom this year, including a guide distributed in February that claimed asking students to show their work is a factor of “white supremacy.”
“White supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher actions,” the guide said. “Coupled with the beliefs that underlie these actions, they perpetuate educational harm on Black, Latinx, and multilingual students, denying them full access to the world of mathematics.”
“The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so,” it continued. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity.”