Oregon high school diplomas should not be fool's gold
"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." — Benjamin Franklin
The son of immigrants who motivated me by their example and involvement, I am the product of a public education where there were expectations and standards. My parents showed me I could achieve. School taught me that accomplishing my goals meant a full-on effort by me to get a high school diploma. I am now a proud father of four publicly educated children, two sons who graduated very well from high school, one graduated from college and one in college, and two daughters currently in this district's public schools. Like my parents, I have tried to show my children that with effort they can steer themselves in the direction of their choosing. Like my parents, I am expecting the public schools to require my two daughters put their backs into getting great high school diplomas, so they are competitive in the eventual marketplace of their choice.
I am fearful about the future competitiveness of Oregon's high school graduates, not because I lack confidence in our great teachers, but because we have political leadership in Salem papering over a problem. Oregon's education "leaders" are recommending that a student's proficiency in reading, writing and math should no longer be required to earn a diploma. In short, they would lower graduation standards to achieve higher graduation rates. That decision will not serve students or their families well, and it will certainly not help educators and teachers find where the curriculum problems exist or where the difficulty in student learning exists. Simply graduating students without hard earned skills will not guarantee success.
Our graduating students will be competing not only with those of other states, but also those of other countries. Like fool's gold, the actual competitiveness of Oregon's students will eventually be discovered by apprenticeship programs, community colleges, four-year colleges, and all institutions of higher learning. When they and the marketplace realize and understand the lower education standards now being set by Oregon's current politicians, our future graduates will be discounted. Opportunities will be given to peers from other states and other countries.
We must return to higher expectations and motivate all students to earn a meaningful high school diploma. We must use data wisely, not manipulate it. We must democratize the data so it can be available to all and be used to find inherent problems in Oregon's education system. We are falling into a trap of mediocrity. Let's recognize that Oregon's education system is not fulfilling its mission to educate all of Oregon's children. Let's reverse this trend. Let's get legislation and programs that address achievement gaps. Let's make academic excellence a top priority and give every student every opportunity to earn a meaningful, top-notch diploma.
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." — Walt Disney
Alistair Firmin is the Republican and Independent Party nominee for House District 38.
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