Roseburg responds to new graduation requirements | Education | –

A new law concerning graduation requirements will mean no more standardized tests for Douglas County students.

Gov. Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 744 into law last month, which will halt all essential skills testing required for graduation for the next three years. The prerequisite tests student’s proficiency levels in reading, writing and math.

The passage of the bill stirred debate among community members in Douglas County.

One of those who feels skeptical is Micki Hall, a retired teacher and former board member for the Roseburg School District.

“It seems like a solution looking to create a problem,” Hall said.

She said without essential skills testing, she is worried how schools will be able to identify kids who may need extra help.

“As far as students directly, I think the fact that some may be graduating without those essential skills ultimately harms kids in the long run,” Hall said.

But Michelle Knee, the Roseburg Public Schools assistant superintendent, emphasized that this does not translate to students being underprepared for graduation.

“SB 744 suspends essential skills testing for the next three years but does not remove Oregon’s graduation requirements,” Knee said. “Students are still required to show proficiency in all core subject areas in order to graduate.”

Essential skills are tested through traditional standardized tests or through portfolios that include work samples from students.

Logan Bishop, an incoming senior at Roseburg High School, said the tests didn’t help him understand the material better but did help him see areas for improvement.

“It’s nice to have a metric of some sort to say how I’m doing or areas that I can improve in,” Bishop said.

The law comes after a year with essential skills testing already slashed due to the pandemic. It also opens the door for the state to review current graduation requirements, said Liz Merah, press secretary for the governor, in a press release.

“In the meantime, it gives Oregon students and the education community a chance to regroup after a year and a half of disruption caused by the pandemic,” Merah said.

She went on to add that this gives time to evaluate whether or not the current set-up for testing essential skills actually benefits students.

The suspension of standardized testing also allows officials a chance to examine ways to make requirements more inclusive, according to the press release.

“It gives Oregon a chance to reimagine and rebuild our education system in a way that more equitably serves Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color,” Merah said.

The review will look into ways to be more accessible for students with disabilities, for immigrant or refugee populations currently learning English.

Bishop said he could see this possibly increasing graduation rates in areas like Roseburg.

“The goal of a public education system is to graduate people,” Bishop said. “So I guess making that more accessible for everyone is good.”

Knee said she wanted to reassure the community about the school district’s dedication to rigorous standards for graduation.

“These standards are key to ensuring students are prepared for life after high school and that students remain on a path to success,” Knee said.

While the bill was mostly divided along party lines, former Rep. Gary Leif was one of the few Republican lawmakers who voted yes on the bill prior to his passing. Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich who worked closely with Leif during the last few months said he did not know the reasoning behind Leif’s vote.

Recommendations for new standards are due to the Legislature and Oregon Department of Education by late September 2022.

Madison Temmel is the Charles Snowden intern at The News-Review. She can be reached at [email protected] and 541-957-4217.