GOAL IS QUALITY EDUCATION FOR ALL
Across Oregon, many educators are licking their wounds after this week's announcement that most of the states school districts are failing to meet federal educational guidelines. The tough new standards are pretty simple: 40 percent of the students must pass reading and writing tests; 39 percent must pass in math; 95 percent of the students must be tested; 92 percent of the students must come to school each day; and (for high schools) 68 percent of students must graduate in four years.
To the average person who grew up before 1985, these seem like reasonable requests of educators and school district board members. We should expect our students to be proficient in reading, writing and math, and school-age children should be tested for comprehension and they should be attending school. Finally, we agree that at least seven in every 10 children should be graduating from high school.
What schools haven't been particularly concerned about in Oregon in the past was meeting these guidelines for minority students and special education students. As Oregon has changed over the past two decades, many schools in the Willamette Valley have more and more minority students. Many of these students have been slipping through the educational cracks, but this won't be allowed any longer. President George Bush brought with him from Texas his educational plan No Child Left Behind that requires accountability for all of America's school-age children.
Even though many educators are quick to point out that Oregon already has strong educational requirements in place, adding the federal guidelines will only point everyone in the same direction of working to improve the system. Most educators across the state see that another level of accountability should keep everyone focused.
Even though Oregon's school children are 75 percent white, the federal plan points out the glaring lack of focus the state's school districts have when it comes to minorities and special education students. Now those districts can sharpen their skills and work to improve in this area.
Failing to meet the new federal guidelines doesn't mean that the school or district are total failures. It does mean that closer attention in some selective areas will help get them off the list and help some students in the areas of concern. We should all see this as a step in the right direction.
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