Oregon Diploma Requirements Inequitable

High School Holds Makeup Ceremony For 2020 Graduates

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Following an extensive community engagement process, the Oregon Department of Education has released a report to the Oregon Legislature and State Board of Education titled, “Community-Informed Recommendations for Equitable Graduation Outcomes: Senate Bill 744 Report.” 

The report, developed in response to legislative request, contains a summary of the department’s engagement process and feedback, a review of current Oregon diploma requirements, a review of graduation data and essential skills, a scan of nationwide diploma requirements and trends, and determinations and recommendations for the Oregon Legislature and State Board of Education to consider and inform future graduation policy decisions. Oregon’s graduation requirements were last reviewed in 2007 and updated in 2008 and phased in through 2013.

Oregon retains stringent requirements for teaching and assessment of reading, writing, math and all other content areas within high school courses, as the number of high school credits required has not changed and remains as rigorous as any in the nation. To earn a diploma in Oregon, students must earn passing grades in 24 high school credits, including four years of language arts and three years of math. Oregon’s high school diploma credit requirements are among the most demanding in the country; at present, no state requires more credits to graduate (Education Commission of the States, 2019).

Statewide Engagement

To develop the recommendations, ODE coordinated extensive statewide engagement, involving more than 3,500 diverse students, community members, families, educators, and representatives of higher education and workforce and industry. ODE also conducted an in-depth review of Oregon graduation data by investigating inequities and disparities, exploring diploma policies in other states and comparing Oregon diploma policies with national trends. 

Statewide, local, and regional engagement was hosted by both ODE and Oregon’s Kitchen Table to gather feedback from a diverse variety of community members. Participants were asked what they value in education and what a diploma means to them, their family, and their community. 

“Oregon is fortunate to have so many diverse community members from throughout the state deeply committed to informing future graduation policies,” said Colt Gill, Director of Oregon Department of Education. “Their contributions enabled the Oregon Department of Education to perform a deep, equity-based review of diploma policies to help prepare Oregon’s students for a productive and opportunity-filled future. Thank you to everyone who participated in this necessary review.”

Determinations and Principles

The report includes two determinations in response to questions posed by SB 744, which ODE was entrusted with addressing. The report does not recommend changing diploma requirements in basic academic skills. Determination #1 addresses the question, “of whether the skills and knowledge expected to be attained by persons who earn high school diplomas in this state… align with the requirements for high school diplomas in this state.” Determination #2 addresses the question, “of whether the requirements for high school diplomas in this state have been applied inequitably to different student populations.”

Determination 1: ODE has determined that the skills and knowledge expected by business, industry, and postsecondary education do not fully align with the current requirements for the Oregon Diploma.

Determination 2: ODE has determined that the requirements for Oregon high school diplomas have been applied inequitably to different student populations.

ODE developed final recommendations (which can be found in the report) by following the principles listed below when synthesizing the information gathered from the review and engagement process:

  • Center accountability on systems, not students. Place accountability on systems to provide the educational resources needed to make requirements feasible for students.
  • Reflect student and community assets. Equity in graduation requirements demands that Oregon's diploma process honors and recognizes student, family and community diversity, culture, assets and strengths (especially communities who have been historically marginalized such as those experiencing poverty, those experiencing housing instability, those experiencing disabilities, those experiencing mobility, those who are multilingual, and students who identify as Black/African-American, Indigenous or Native, LGBTQ2SIA+ community members.)
  • Prepare students for their futures. Diploma requirements must be designed so students are prepared to thrive in the ever complex and changing world after graduation.
  • Create coherence and clarity. Diploma requirements should be accessible, with clear expectations and steps to achieving a diploma identified.

These recommendations are intended to make Oregon’s diploma requirements more equitable, accessible, and inclusive for all students. The recommendations do not stand alone and should not be implemented independently. If the State Board of Education and/or Legislature consider implementation of any of the recommendations they should be implemented in a coordinated fashion that is further informed by active and robust community engagement.

The final report and supporting appendices can be accessed online. The process and report offer an opportunity for the Legislature and State Board of Education to review Oregon’s diploma requirements and consider updates to better serve all of our youth. This report shows that Oregon has a chance to reimagine and rebuild our education system in a way that more equitably serves Oregon’s students. This report in and of itself does not direct any action on Oregon’s diploma requirements, any action based on these requirements would be signaled by future direction from the Oregon Legislature or State Board of Education. Any questions and comments can be directed to: ODE.SenateBill744@ode.oregon.gov

Source: Oregon Department of Education

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