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Brown, a Democrat, did not hold a public signing or issue a press release regarding the passing of Senate Bill 744 on July 14, and the measure, which was approved by lawmakers in June, was not added into the state's legislative database until more than two weeks later on July 29, an unusually quiet approach to enacting legislation, according to the Oregonian.
Secretary of the Senate Lori Brocker's office is responsible for updating the legislative database, and a staffer tasked with dealing with the governor's office was experiencing medical issues during the 15-day time frame it took the database to be updated with the recently signed law, Brocker said.
"SB 744 gives us an opportunity to review our graduation requirements and make sure our assessments can truly assess all students’ learning," Charles Boyle, a spokesman for the governor, said in an email to the Washington Examiner. "In the meantime, it gives Oregon students and the education community a chance to regroup after a year and a half of disruption caused by the pandemic."
The bill, which suspends the proficiency requirements for students for three years, has attracted controversy for at least temporarily suspending academic standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Backers argued the existing proficiency levels for math and reading presented an unfair challenge for students who do not test well, and Boyle said the new standards for graduation would aid Oregon's "Black, Latino, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color."
The requirement for students to demonstrate proficiency in essential subjects on a freshman to sophomore skill level in order to graduate was terminated at the start of the pandemic as part of Brown's Stay Home, Save Lives order in March 2020.
Democrats largely backed the executive order and argued in favor of SB 744's proposed expansion, saying the existing educational proficiency standards were flawed.
"The testing that we've been doing in the past doesn't tell us what we want to know," Democratic Sen. Lew Frederick told a local ABC affiliate in June. "We have been relying on tests that have been, frankly, very flawed and relying too much on them so that we aren't really helping the students or the teachers or the community."
Supporters of the measure said the state needed to pause the academic requirements, which had been in place since 2009, so lawmakers could reevaluate which standards should be updated, and recommendations for new graduation standards are due to the Legislature and Oregon Board of Education by September 2022, the Oregonian added in its report.
Republicans criticized the proposal for lowering academic standards.
"I worry that by adopting this bill, we're giving up on our kids," House Republican Leader Christine Drazan said on June 14.
Still, the measure received some bipartisan support, with state Rep. Gordon Smith, a Republican, voting in favor of passage. The state House passed the bill 38-18 on June 14, and the state Senate voted 16-13 in favor of the measure on June 16.
While some lawmakers argued against standardized testing for skill evaluation, the state of Oregon does not list any particular test as a requirement for earning a diploma, with the Department of Education saying only that "students will need to successfully complete the credit requirements, demonstrate proficiency in the Essential Skills, and meet the personalized learning requirements."
"Senate Bill 744 does not remove Oregon’s graduation requirements, and it certainly does not remove any requirements that Oregon students learn essential skills," Boyle said, adding it is "misleading" to conflate the subjects of standardized testing with graduation requirements.
The Washington Examiner contacted the Department of Education but did not immediately receive a response.
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese