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Eugene 4J Supports Senate Bill to Reduce State Testing

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Eugene 4J school board members are supporting an Oregon senate bill that addresses a state testing policy. The bill would remove certain testing requirements and graduation barriers.

Senate Bill 1572 would take away the Department of Education’s authority for graduation required assessments—such as the Essential Skills test. This would give local districts the ability to mandate these requirements.

Judy Newman is the chair of the school board’s legislative committee. She described the creation of the essential skills test.  

“The essential skills test was something that was put into law in about 2007-2008,” said Newman. “And it was put in as setting the bar for graduation through demonstration in several ways, so that kids getting an Oregon diploma would have to reach a certain threshold of performance.”

Newman said this was before the installment of the federally funded, state-mandated test. According to Newman, there are only a handful of other states that have assessments similar to the essential skill test—also referred as exit exams in other states.

She said this bill is a step toward reducing testing and increasing graduation.

“My understanding is statewide, there are students who don’t graduate because of [the essential skills test],” said Newman. “Either they get discouraged—here they’ve taken all 24 credits or on track to do that with passing grades—but they can’t quite get to that level. So they may drop out.”

Although the board’s legislative sub-committee supports the bill, they are not in favor of the bill moving the decision to districts.

During the school board meeting, members said they suggested bill amendments that support eliminating the essential skills test statewide. Newman said they are concerned it could lead to Oregon schools having a variety of graduation requirements across the state—which could potentially devalue the Oregon high school diploma.

The bill would also allow former students to apply for their diploma if they did not obtain it during the installment of the essential skills test. But students must have completed all of their other graduation requirements to be eligible.

If passed, the policy would apply to graduating classes on and after July 2021.

Read the school board’s letter to Oregon legislators.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.