Dropping High School Graduation Standards Hurts Students’ Future Prospects

By Stewart Robertson

Recently, Governor Kate Brown quietly signed Senate Bill 744. The new law drops the requirement that high school students show proficiency in math, reading, and writing in order to graduate. The move has received significant media coverage. But little attention is being paid to what will happen once these students receive their diplomas.

A high school diploma is a sign of accomplishment. It shows the student has demonstrated reasonable proficiency in reading, writing, and math. These are important skills for any career path—especially if that path involves college. The new law makes it more likely college admissions staff will think twice before admitting graduates from an Oregon public school. Why would a college want a student who can’t do long division? Why would an employer hire a candidate who doesn’t understand basic algebra?

Just a few years ago, the education establishment pushed STEM skills: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Oregon’s new law effectively says the days of STEM are over. With SB 744, simply warming a chair is all that’s needed to get a diploma in an Oregon public school.

Believe it or not, the Oregon legislature reconvenes in less than 6 months. In the meantime, let your representative know how important it is we bring back proficiency requirements. The futures of our children are at stake.

Stewart Robertson is a Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Comments 3

  1. Avatar for Jim Kennedy

    Jim Kennedy

    12:54 pm - August 18, 2021

    We pay a lot of educate these children. The Gov. thinks minority children are incapable of learning so she has eliminated graduation requirements. The CCP are laughing their derriers off. Maybe we should try a strategy that would help ALL students who are having a difficulty in school. Instead of saying either the students are incapable of learning or the teachers are incapable of teaching or a combination of both.

  2. Avatar for Larry Sparks

    Larry Sparks

    8:41 pm - September 10, 2021

    From personal and professional experience, students respect demanding academics in STEM and other courses and will step up and learn what is required. I am still
    discussing the tough academic teachers that I had in the mid 1960’s and so are my friends. Tough academic standards created the foundation that made college and professional life less stressful as I did not need to learn the simple basics that SB 744 has created.

    The Oregon legislature has placed a heavy anvil around the neck of Oregon students, they will not be able to compete in the real world and will make life extremely difficult.

  3. Avatar for Jay


    5:40 am - September 14, 2021

    The policy upheaval is so astounding that few are able to accept this as a true story without a lot of corroboration. But the corroboration seems to be out there. Is Oregon’s governor really so clueless? This seems like an impeachable “offense.” Governors really should not be allowed to adopt such bizarre, indefensible, and destructive policies!!

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