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Essential Skills for 21st Century Success

What Are Essential Skills?

In order to graduate from high school, students must demonstrate proficiency in certain 21st century skills needed for success in college, careers and civic life.

The following essential skills were phased in over several years and are now among the graduation requirements for all Oregon students:

Read and comprehend a variety of text (beginning with the class of 2012)
Write clearly and accurately (beginning with the class of 2013)
Apply mathematics in a variety of settings (beginning with the class of 2014)

Demonstrating Proficiency

The essential skills of reading, writing and math have always been taught in Oregon schools. The requirement to demonstrate proficiency in order to graduate began with the class of 2012.

In order to graduate, students must meet specific standards for each skill on the high school statewide assessment or on an alternate assessment.

Students who do not meet the achievement standards through the state test may take another approved assessment or a enroll in a class to get targeted assistance and demonstrate proficiency through scored work samples. Alternate assessments include ACT, SAT, PSAT, WorkKeys, AP and IB.

Modifications for Students with Special Needs

All students, including those with special needs, must demonstrate proficiency in the essential skills in order to receive a regular or modified diploma. Some students, particularly students with disabilities who are receiving special education and students on 504 plans, may need accommodations in order to participate in the essential skill assessments.

Students with special needs should follow the same process and timeline to achieve the essential skills as their non-disabled peers. However, while students seeking a modified diploma must meet the essential skills requirements, school districts may modify certain assessment options for these students. Such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Accommodations for English Language Learners

Students whose home language is not English need support as they advance toward earning a high school diploma. Limited English Proficient (LEP) students should follow the same process and timeline to achieve the essential skills as their English-speaking classmates. However, some options are available to these students.

While students may fall in several broad categories according to their progress in mastering academic English, decisions about assessments in the essential skills will be made on an individual basis. A small number of students may be eligible to demonstrate proficiency in the essential skills in their language of origin. Those students must have met the following criteria:

1. They will have been enrolled in U.S. schools for five years or less when they reach their senior year.
2. They will have accumulated or be on track to accumulate the 24 required credits for graduation.
3. They will have achieved a score of 3 or higher on the ELPA assessment.

Talented and Gifted Students

While some students will need additional support to achieve the requirements of the essential skills, other students will demonstrate their skills early — possibly even in 8th or 9th grade.

Some of these students may be identified as Talented and Gifted (TAG) and others may not. But all these students need opportunities to continue to grow and develop in the essential skills.

Learn More

Visit the Oregon Department of Education website for more information or contact your school’s counseling office if you have questions.