Oregon Joins Other States in Considering Higher Standards
This spring, Oregon's state board of higher education, dismayed that up to 50 percent of the freshmen at its four-year colleges and universities are reported to be unready for college-level work, will act on a proposal to adopt minimum high-school graduation requirements for admission to those institutions.
Oregon is one of 27 states nationwide that have made such a move, or are considering it, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
According to a 1982 study by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, for example, 8 of 13 Western states have already enacted, or are looking at, various types of strengthened requirements for admission to their public colleges and universities.
The Oregon Proposal
The Oregon proposal--a slightly altered version of requirements asked for in September by Chancellor of Higher Education W.E. Davis--would require entering Oregon freshmen to have completed the following 14 units before entering any of the state's four-year colleges or the university:
Four years of English, with an emphasis on composition and literature.
Three years of mathematics, including algebra, geometry, and second-year algebra (or other higher-level mathematics courses, such as trigonometry).
Two years of science, including a year each in college-preparatory subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, or earth science.
Three years of social studies, including one year of U.S. history, a half-year of government, and one year of "global studies."
Two additional years of "other college prep" courses, preferably in foreign language.
Originally, Mr. Davis recommended 16 required hours with a two-year foreign-language requirement, said Gary A. Christensen, director of school relations for the state board of higher education.
Oregon students already have to meet a minimum grade-point average (gpa) in all courses that are counted toward high-school graduation.
The minimum varies among the state's public higher-education institutions, from 2.75 (on a scale of 4.0) at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, to 2.25 at the Oregon Institute of Technology.
Two-year colleges are not included in this proposal.
Oregon's high-school graduates must now complete three years of English, one year of mathematics, one year of science, two and a half years of social studies, one year of physical education, one year of health education, one year of "personal finance," a half-year of "career education," one year of either fine arts, applied arts, or foreign language, and nine electives.
The current minimum standards for admission into state colleges and universities vary. Most students must have graduated from an accredited high school and must submit Scholastic Aptitude Test (sat) or American College Test (act) scores.
Mr. Christensen said there are several reasons for the Chancellor's proposal. The state board of higher education has found that a significant portion of Oregon's incoming freshmen (half of those entering in the fall of 1981, for example) were unprepared to enroll in college-level mathematics and writing courses.
A joint committee on "the High School/College Connection"--with representatives from the state board of education, the higher-education board, and the Oregon educational coordinating commission--recommended that the state adopt course prerequisites for admission to college in English, mathematics, science, and social science, effective in 1986.
Class of 1985
The state board of higher education would like to see the proposal phased in with the class of 1985. The state board of education favors beginning with the class of 1987.
Although the proposal has received generally widespread accep-tance among Oregon educators, said Ronald D. Burge, a deputy state school superintendent, "the implication is that Oregon high schools haven't been adequately preparing kids for college, but this is a question that remains unanswered."
Taking Courses Voluntarily
Mr. Burge said that 75 percent of Oregon's college-bound students are now taking the chancellor's recommended courses voluntarily. "Those being forced to take remedial programs at the college level are often kids who shouldn't be in college anyway," he said.
"Our disagreement is not with the appropriateness of the courses required, but with the automatic implication that Oregon high schools are not doing an adequate job," he said.
The state board has appointed a committee to monitor both the higher-education board's work, and the recommendations of the joint committee, Mr. Burge said. This committee will report on the probable impact of both sets of proposals later this spring.