Higher Math Standards in Oregon Victim of Budget?

By Sean Cavanagh — December 15, 2008 1 min read
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One of the consequences of the financial shortfalls hitting states and school districts is that they are scaling back all sorts of programs, or cutting them altogether. In a variation on that dour theme, Oregon state officials said recently that they’re planning to delay the implementation of a new math requirement, partly for budgetary reasons.

Earlier this year, Oregon’s state board of education approved tougher requirements for graduation in math, as well as other subjects. But last week, board members said that while they don’t plan on putting off higher graduation standards in reading, writing, and making oral presentations, the goal of having all students reach proficiency on a state math test by 2012 is simply too daunting without more financial assistance going to schools.

According to this story in the Oregonian, the failure of half the state’s sophomores to pass Oregon’s high school math test on the first attempt loomed large in the minds of board members. To help them, schools would need more money for interventions, such as after school and summer programs—money that isn’t available.

“A quarter to a third of the students are going to have significant challenges in meeting the math standards. It could be done, but it would take a significant crusade,” school board Chairman Duncan Wyse, president of the Oregon Business Council, said in the story.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski also favored delaying the more rigorous diploma requirements.

Wyse’s position is interesting, given what is occurring just to the south of his state. Earlier this year, California officials, with the strong backing of business leaders, voted to phase in a requirement that 8th graders take and be tested in Algebra 1. That decision has been fought by California school administrators and others who say, among other things, that it’s unrealistic without schools being given more money to help struggling students. (A California judge recently blocked the mandate from taking effect.) The Oregon board member and business leader seems sympathetic to the arguments coming from school districts.

Time will tell if other states, particularly those that have pushed tougher math and science requirements, scale back those plans, as their budgets shrink.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.