House votes to undo school reforms

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Landmark school reforms passed by the Legislature in 1991 – such as the controversial certificates of mastery – would be scrapped by a bill passed by the House on Monday.

Critics say the reforms have not produced results and have bogged down teachers and students with extra work.

But others argued that the plan should not be completely thrown out, which they said could result in lower standards and requirements.

The bill passed the Republican-dominated House 34-23. But it has little chance of being approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate, said Dave Miller, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland.

Under the bill, the Certificate of Initial Mastery and Certificate of Advanced Mastery – or CIM and CAM – would be scrapped and the Oregon Department of Education would contract out for standardized testing starting with the 2007 school year.

The department currently develops and owns the standardized tests used throughout the state to evaluate students’ performance.

CIM and CAM are a “failed experiment,” said Rep. Linda Flores, R-Clackamas, who introduced the bill to the House floor.

Flores said two-thirds of students didn’t get CIM-certified diplomas last year and that universities and businesses didn’t take CIM-certification into account. CAM certification is not available until 2008.

Schools have been “testing and testing and testing our children into an educational stupor,” said Rep. Brad Avakian, D-Beaverton, who was one of several Democrats to speak in favor of the bill.

But others said throwing out CIM and CAM is a recipe for disaster.

“Business leaders are telling us don’t jump off this cliff because we have no idea what net is going to catch us,” said Rep. Dave Hunt, D-Milwaukie.

Hunt said it would result in lower standards, among other things.

State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo said in a statement that she opposed Monday’s House vote.

Castillo wrote in an op-ed earlier this month that she would prefer changes be based on a comprehensive review of high schools by the Oregon Department of Education to be completed by 2006.

“The difference will be that, under my proposal, there will be thoughtful planning for next steps – rather than an abrupt dislocation,” Castillo wrote.

“Bottom line: this bill doesn’t make sense for Oregon – not in educational or business terms,” Castillo said in a statement Monday.

Castillo also said the bill requires the state to buy generic standardized tests, which might not meet federal standards, even if they were more expensive than the current tests.