As an educator, I have faith in the teaching-learning process. I know that given enough time and explanations, practice and determination, most people can learn most things. On occasion, however, I work with students who have a great attitude and show aptitudes, but hit the wall somewhere -- often in higher math. These students, most of whom have a diagnosed disability or medical condition, are being put through the wringer by a bad combination of federal policy and Oregon's new high school graduation requirements.
When these requirements are fully phased in, to earn a regular diploma, students must pass four years of English, three years of science and three years of math beyond pre-algebra, in addition to separate tests on the "common core" skills of reading, math, and writing.
At some Oregon schools, including Forest Grove High School, the proficiency-based curriculum requires students to pass all of the tests in order to pass the class. Unlike days of yore, you can't squeak through Algebra II by trying hard, attending class and doing all the homework.
In what seems a wise and compassionate move, Oregon requires its school districts to offer a "modified diploma" when students meet certain conditions. This certificate requires the same number of credits as a regular diploma, but provides more flexibility in terms of which courses count and how the student is assessed.