‘Woke’ Oregon Schools Don’t Test Kids in Math, Reading, and Writing

By: Georgia | Published: Nov 07, 2023

The state of Oregon has decided to modify its high school education criteria.

Specifically, for the next five years, high school students will no longer need to display proficiency in areas like math, reading, and writing to graduate, marking a significant departure from previous educational benchmarks.

Standardized Test Scores Were Previously Essential

Historically, to achieve a high school diploma in Oregon, students were mandated to attain certain standardized test scores.

An image displaying multiple standardized test answer sheets alongside a pencil, where circles on the answer sheets can be filled in to answer questions

Source: Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu/Unsplash

These scores served as a benchmark, reflecting students’ capabilities in foundational subjects such as reading, writing, and math. This was the accepted norm for years.


Pandemic Leads to Reassessment of Testing

The global pandemic brought about unforeseen educational challenges. Schools across Oregon had to close, leading to a temporary cessation of standardized tests.

A line of high school students waiting in line for COVID temperature checks before entering school

Source: Getty Images

This interruption initiated a re-evaluation of the long-standing graduation requirements, prompting education officials to consider alternative approaches.

The Decision by the State Board

In response to these challenges, the Oregon State Board of Education held a meeting to determine the way forward.

A student with a maroon jacket and headphones sits at a desk in a classroom, intently working on a paper

Student Focused on an Exam

The outcome was a unanimous decision to prolong the suspension of traditional graduation requirements, confirming this change for another five years.

Understanding the Motivation for the Shift

The revision in graduation requirements was influenced by concerns surrounding educational equity.

A classroom scene with diverse students. Two women and two men are visible. One woman is standing, holding notebooks and wearing a backpack

Source: Javier Trueba/Unsplash

Specifically, it was believed that the original standards might be detrimental to certain student demographics, including students of color, those with learning disabilities, and non-native English speakers.

State-Mandated Tests to Remain

Although the graduation requirements have evolved, it’s crucial to highlight that standardized testing in Oregon will persist.

View through a window into a classroom filled with students. The students appear engaged and focused

Source: Jeswin Thomas/Pexels

High school students will still participate in these tests; however, the scores acquired will no longer dictate their graduation eligibility.


Clarification From Board Members

Regarding this change, Vicky López Sánchez, a prominent member of the state board, elucidated that they are merely “suspending the inappropriate use of assessments.”

A person's arm is extended on a table, being overwhelmed by a stack of books placed on top of the arm


The fundamental goal is a recalibration, ensuring that these tests serve their intended purpose within the educational ecosystem.


Community Feedback

The decision to amend the requirements was met with a myriad of responses from the community. A substantial number of individuals proactively submitted their comments on the matter.

A group of high school students walking and interacting in a school hallway illuminated by natural light from windows

Source: RDNE Stock project/Unsplash

Some ardently advocated for reverting to the original standards, while others expressed steadfast support for the new approach.


Assessing the Underlying Factors

In-depth discussions hinted at more profound implications, specifically the influence of cultural and societal norms on student assessments.

A group of graduates wearing caps and gowns, some in black and some in white, moving their tassels during a graduation ceremony

Source: Caleb Woods/Unsplash

This dialogue demonstrated that the overarching issue could be more complex, extending beyond just test mechanics and encompassing broader societal influences.


Diverse Perspectives

Christine Drazan, having once vied for the gubernatorial position in Oregon, shared her insights.

A diverse group of people socializing outside a brick building. Several people are engaged in conversations

Source: Samantha Gades/Unsplash

She stressed the fundamental importance of providing genuine, quality learning opportunities for every student, emphasizing the core objective of educational endeavors.


Potential Future Changes

Emerging from the backdrop of these discussions is the concept of ‘equity grading’.

Two students sitting at desks in a classroom, focusing on something in front of them

Source: RDNE Stock project

This progressive approach to evaluation might eventually replace the age-old grading system, heralding a potential shift away from the entrenched A to F grading paradigm.


Oregon's Educational Evolution Continues

With these novel changes underway, Oregon’s education system is entering a new phase.

A happy graduate wearing a black and gold cap and gown

Source: Jake Patrick/Unsplash

As this chapter unfolds, stakeholders will keenly observe the repercussions and results of these shifts, anticipating the long-term impact on future generations of students.