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Students have to work harder to reach the finish line
New standards mean students must pass essential skills requirements in reading and writing to graduate
March 11, 2013
As the school year winds down, new learning standards loom on the horizon, and new graduation requirements have staff and students working hard to reach the finish line.
A significant change in graduation requirements occurred during the 2012 graduation year, when potential graduates were expected to pass the Essential Skills requirements in reading. The upcoming graduating class will have to pass reading and writing, and in 2014, there will be a requirement for math added.
“They have to meet or exceed, and if they don’t, the state has given an opportunity to prove that they are meeting their Essential Skills,” said Crook County High school Principal Rocky Miner
Assistant Vice Principal Michelle Jonas noted that there are a number of ways to meet the Essential Skills requirements. Although the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) is the most common, students can also take the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, as well as a number of other assessments to demonstrate the Essential Skills. In 2012, all graduating seniors passed their Essential Skills to graduate.
Crook County School Board chair Patti Norris said that in 2014-15, a new test called the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be coming up, which will replace the OAKS assessments. It is aligned with the Common Core State Standards, which are new learning standards that will be required in all schools throughout the country. The first class to take the test will be the current freshman class, which will be juniors at that time.
“It’s a big deal,” commented Norris. “It’s not just a different test, it’s a whole different set of standards, plus a different test that is administered differently that the district has limited experience with. Fortunately, we have been piloting it, so we have more experience than some other districts.”
She added that even though they have integrated the Common Core State Standards at the high school level, it’s not designed as a high school program only — it’s a k-12 program. The students who are in elementary through middle school will have time to adapt to the changes. Students currently at the high school came up through the OAKS system, and they are now trying to make this transition in a couple of years.
“It’s a big transition,” indicated Norris.
She said that initially, the public should be prepared for test scores to drop some. The new Common Core State Standards are much more rigorous, and current high school students don’t have eight years of the new standards. Norris noted that in the OAKS test, most questions were multiple choice, and the new Smarter Balanced Assessment does not have many multiple choice questions.
“It’s a new set of standards that includes more rigor, which is a good thing, but it is also different,” she said. “If the new scores end up being lower, it’s not just because it’s more rigorous, it’s also because it’s different. We are teaching different things, and it’s going to take some time to adapt to.”
In addition to the changes in OAKS testing at the high school, the class of 2013 will be the first class to be able to take advantage of the Advanced Diploma. This year’s seniors will have the opportunity to attend and earn their first year of college free, while remaining a student of Crook County High School for the 2013/2014 school year. The students choose from one of five participating Oregon community colleges. The list of colleges includes Central Oregon Community College, Chemeketa Community College, Portland Community College, Lane Community College, and Linn Benton Community College.
“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for our students to open the door of the possibility of college for more of our students, and maybe even some students who really didn’t think they would ever have that chance,” said Miner.
There will be a meeting on the Advanced Diploma on March 19, at Crook County High School Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. All parents and students are welcome. There will be an opportunity to speak to representatives from Central Oregon Community College about the Advanced Diploma.