Oregon's Plan For High Schools: No State Tests, 90 Percent Graduation

By Rob Manning (OPB)
Portland, Oregon May 3, 2017 5:51 p.m.

A year and a half after the federal government passed its education overhaul, Oregon submitted its required plan for schools.

The old No Child Left Behind law drew criticism for its rigid, federal mandates.


Oregon’s plan is required under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which offers states more flexibility in how they satisfy general goals for student achievement and equitable outcomes.

Oregon’s plan is mindful of achievement gaps, and will continue to break out student data for specific ethnic groups and low-income students, for instance.

Related: Class Of 2025: Follow Students From 1st Grade To Graduation


The plan aims at a 90 percent graduation rate by 2025 – for all student groups. That's a variation on what Oregon legislators committed to in 2011, when they approved a 100 percent graduation goal starting with the Class of 2025. The state plan argues the 90 percent goal doesn't weaken the legislature's goal, because the remaining 10 percent of students should finish high school with equivalency diplomas (a possibility mentioned in summaries of the 100 percent graduation goal, often termed "40-40-20").

"Some students earn alternate credentials, such as a GED, and some students need more than four years to graduate," the plan said.

Even achieving that 90 percent graduation rate would be a major 16-point improvement over the current rate of about 74 percent, in a little more than eight years.

The plan shifts away from punitive measures of the old federal law, and toward locally developed improvement plans. It also moves away from measuring schools based almost exclusively on what share of students pass standardized tests. Oregon's plan still uses passing rates on tests, but relies more heavily on growth rates, as well as attendance, language proficiency, graduation rates, and tracking whether ninth graders are earning enough credits.

That’s not what students, parents and teachers may notice most. They’ll see that Oregon is dropping the state test for high schoolers and replacing it with exams that many students are already taking like the ACT or SAT.

A statement from the Oregon Department of Education notes the plan has the support of school administrators and unionized teachers, as well as tribal leaders and education non-profits.

The plan also highlights subject areas that were given a higher profile under the Every Student Succeeds Act, than under its federal predecessor, like Career-Technical Education and the arts.