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The Dumbing Down of Expectations

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(diane39/Getty Images) Oregon becomes the latest state to abandon quality in pursuit of false equity.

As a new school year unfolds and students face yet another year of learning disruptions, policy leaders across the country should be doing everything in their power to ensure every student is equipped with an education that will help them succeed. Unfortunately, some politicians lack the conviction to enact sound policy that puts students first and, instead, have embraced a race-to-the-bottom mentality.

Rather than implement plans to turn around plummeting student achievement, create new pathways for kids to access a school tailored to their needs, or innovate with strategies to customize a child’s learning experience, Oregon governor Kate Brown quietly signed a brand new bill that hands all Oregon students a high-school diploma, irrespective of whether they can read, write, or demonstrate proficiency in math.

In other words, Oregon is lowering the bar and lowering expectations, granting students the credential of an “effective” K–12 education without making sure they’re equipped with the fundamental skills they need for a successful life.

Perhaps more concerning is the fact that Brown’s intentions are in pursuit of “education equity.” Proponents of Brown’s decision claimed Oregon’s existing standards resulted in fewer minority students graduating high school. So in Brown’s upside-down world, the solution was simple: lower the bar and increase graduation numbers.

That does zero to serve students. In effect, what Governor Brown is saying is that the school system is fine; it’s the students who are broken — namely, minority students.

Frankly put, this is asinine. It’s a backwards approach that underestimates the potential of every student, and lets the system, charged with educating the rising generation, off the hook for providing kids with the quality education they deserve.

As a former governor who used data to inform policy, I didn’t have to dig much before seeing how Oregon’s approach is deeply flawed and sets students on a dangerous path.

Oregon’s students are already underperforming. Between 2016–17 and 2018–19, all Oregon students trailed the national average in the state’s four-year high-school

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