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CCSD School Board voted 3-2 on first reading of Graduation Requirements (Policy IKF) amendment

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - School board approved the first reading of an amendment for SB 744.

When Senate Bill 744 recently passed the Senate, the perception of the outcome became a firestorm as the media got ahold of the news.

In SB 744, the repeal of methodology for determining whether students were meeting the essential skills test, has been pressing on the minds of Crook County parents and community members. The perception and interpretation have also been a firestorm, and the Crook County School District School Board wanted to address this issue with an amendment that would ensure the district would retain high academic standards in the classroom environment.

During the Sept. 13, CCSD School Board meeting, the topic of SB 744 was on the agenda at the recommendation of the school board. School Board Chair Scott Cooper commented that the way that the language was put together by the state made it look like they repealed the requirement of the proficiency to read, write and do math as essential skills for graduation.

"They started out with a very simple bill that would have said, 'Let's go back and study the essential skills and see if they are aligned with what employers today are demanding.' That actually sounded like a pretty good idea when it was first introduced," added Cooper of SB 744.

Cooper elaborated that somewhere in the revision of that bill, things became very complicated. He went on to say that he requested that this be added to the board agenda, and Dr. Joel Hoff, assistant superintendent for CCSD, presented the recommended amendment for the school district in a slide show during the board meeting.

He led into the discussion by addressing some of the media and news that have surrounded the topic, and the confusion that has resulted. Hoff began by pointing out the truths about SB 744. First, it suspends the Oregon Skills requirement until 2024, which is the requirement that every student had to demonstrate grade-level proficiency in reading, writing and math through several different options. SB 744 also involves a state committee to review essential skills requirements and will make a recommendation to the State Board of Education.

Some added context that is related to SB 744 and not in the news headlines includes that Oregon law still requires 24 credits, including English, mathematics and science classes to earn a high school diploma. CCSD is proposing language in addition to Graduation Requirements (Policy IKF), which is that the district will include graduation requirements to uphold high academic standards, regardless of state legislation. It would also include tracking and reporting for students meeting "Proficiency Targets" toward graduation requirements on a quarterly dashboard.

In addition to the CCSD Policy IKF Graduation Requirements, Hoff read the added language that is being proposed; "Notwithstanding the 2021 changes to the Essential Skills Requirements through SB 744, the Crook County School District will continue to require students to demonstrate grade-level proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics through a variety of assessments in required subject-area courses throughout their high school academic career, as a condition of a standard, honors or advanced diploma."

"That would cover us and continue our insistence on those high academic standards while the OSBA and the legislator figures it all out, but that would be more of a statement from our board," said Hoff.

School Board Vice Chair Doug Smith asked what that would look like. Hoff responded that on the ground level, freshmen would have to demonstrate freshman reading and writing ability to pass freshman English. Without it, they wouldn't pass freshman English or earn that credit to earn the required credit for graduation. For math, freshmen students must pass two math classes, including Algebra 1 or above.

Overall, students are required to pass four years of honors or regular English, and three years of math above Algebra 1. Through those classes, there will be many opportunities for assessments to demonstrate the grade-level proficiency in those classes to pass them.

"That would be how we monitor that," Hoff stated of the proficiencies in those classes.

He emphasized that the classes would remain rigorous, with teachers ensuring that students have the skills to pass the classes. The district already has those high standards in place.

"It ties into a system we already have and makes it so we do not just give diplomas away for showing up and sitting down in a chair," continued Hoff.

Cooper reiterated that the essential skills test is no longer an option as one of the assessments for getting kids across the finish line, but the other assessments are still in place. Hoff added that it would be a misstep for the district to create its own grade-level test and suddenly throw out a new system that would burden the upcoming graduates.

"With what we are doing, this ties what the essential skills was into our classes and makes it so we are not creating this whole new system," added Hoff.

School Board member Jessica Ritter questioned whether the IKF was up to date when they made the proposed addition. Hoff said that it was last updated January 2020, and he stated that they would ensure that it would align with everything they are doing. Patti Norris proposed that they table the discussion until next month because the revised IKF is due in two weeks by the OSBA Policy Committee.

Smith moved they go ahead and adopt the IKF modified policy, realizing that it may need to be modified in a couple of months.

"At least it shows our concern for SB 744 and allows us to move forward," said Smith.

School Board member Gwen Carr seconded Smith's motion to adopt the IKF policy as is. In an ensuing discussion, Ritter was concerned whether it will affect any operations in the next month if they move forward on the motion.

The motion passed 3-2. The policy will not become effective until the second reading next month, because it requires unanimous vote during the first reading.

There were no public comments regarding SB 744 during the board meeting.

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