Standards going up

State requirements for diplomas rise

Lake Oswego fifth and seventh graders might want to break out their math and science textbooks more often - starting now.

The requirements for their high school graduation increased last week, when the Oregon Board of Educators voted on Jan. 18 to raise the state's diploma standards.

The board plans to begin phasing the standards in starting with the classes of 2012 and 2014.

The new standards include four years of English; three years of math at the algebra I level and higher; and three years of science courses, including two with labs.

Students will need to earn a 24-credit minimum in Oregon to graduate instead of 22. The Lake Oswego School District already requires 25 credits to earn a diploma.

While many districts across Oregon have been gearing up for the changes for years, only the new advanced math and science requirements will affect Lake Oswego students.

Seniors should be able to meet the additional science lab requirement, but the math changes have complicated the matter.

The original proposal was enough to worry the school board, which submitted a letter to the Oregon Department of Education detailing why board members did not support the new math standards.

The math portion would require students to complete algebra I, along with two more advanced math courses, such as geometry and algebra II or calculus.

Board members worried about the 10 percent of seniors who already have trouble grasping advanced math, which deals with abstract, theoretical concepts.

They voiced concern that the new math requirements would put a strain on resources and cause more students to give up and drop out.

'While we are fully supportive of setting high standards and expectations for students, we believe it is an unrealistic expectation that every student will be able to achieve truly high standards,' the letter stated.

But board members were pleasantly surprised when the approved requirements included flexibility in higher math course choices.

Students can now choose to take statistics classes, rather than advanced algebra or calculus.

'There were different pathways for different kids,' Superintendent Bill Korach said. 'The way they worded (the changes) gives us the latitude we were hoping for. There's very little they're asking for that we don't already do.'

The higher standards, according to ODE, will better prepare students for entry to college and jobs that require math training. Many states are phasing in similar requirements, though they vary state-by-state.

A key feature in the future diploma will be a wider use of proficiency to meet state content standards.

LOSD officials will start looking at ways to help students meet standards districtwide, from the use of tutoring to more classroom time.

Korach praised the board for providing its thoughtful input to the ODE.

'I do think the board's initiative and actions did make a difference,' he said.

In other school board news:

Lake Oswego School Board Member Bill Swindells and board Chair Curt Sheinin announced they will be running for re-election this spring.

Swindells and Sheinin are wrapping up their respective four-year terms and seek to regain their positions again on May 15.

Candidates can file to run for their positions starting Feb. 5 at the Clackamas County Elections Office in Oregon City. According to Nancy Duin, district communications coordinator, candidates must be 18 years old and residents of Lake Oswego.