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Ore. Lawmakers Retain Mastery Certificates

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The Oregon legislature approved a compromise bill last week that revises the state's comprehensive school-reform act but retains its much-debated use of mastery certificates.

In the final days of the legislative session, lawmakers voted to adopt the report of a conference committee resolving differences between the House and Senate. The previous week, the committee's deliberations lasted several days, stretching into the weekend. (See Education Week, 6/7/95.)

The House adopted the conference committee's report by a vote of 49 to 11. Roger Bassett, the education-policy aide to Gov. John Kitzhaber, called the vote "surprisingly strong," given earlier, close votes on the issue. The Senate approved the report by 22 to 8.

But observers suggested that opponents of the school-reform act remained likely to push for a ballot initiative next year to repeal it.

Support for Diplomas

The revised measure will continue the state's pioneering use of certificates of initial and advanced mastery and retains requirements that schools operate site-based decisionmaking councils.

But new language was introduced to clarify that students seeking certificates of advanced mastery will have access to both college-preparatory classes and vocational and technical training, something critics had said the act called into question. The bill also makes optional a requirement that students compile portfolios of their work in order to receive the certificates.

The bill also reasserts the importance of traditional high school diplomas, in response to critics who contended that under the 1991 act, the state could force schools to stop issuing diplomas and replace them with the certificates. Schools can now opt to issue diplomas, certificates, or a combination of the two.

The 1991 Oregon act drew on recommendations offered in a 1990 report from the Rochester, N.Y.-based National Center on Education and the Economy. "America's Choice: High Skills Or Low Wages?" warned that schools must improve the performance of all students, not just the college-bound. (See Education Week, 6/20/90.)

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