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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 (OAKS), 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 work samples.

Students must meet ONE of the following standards in EACH essential skill:

  Reading  Writing  Mathematics 
OAKS assessment, pre-2015 236 40 composite score: Average of 4 on each of the four required traits.  236
OAKS Smarter Balanced Assessment to be determined  to be determined  to be determined 
SAT 440  460 on Writing section of the SAT  450
ACT 18  19 on combined English/Writing test  19
PSAT  44  –  45
ACT PLAN 18  –  19
Work Keys 5  –  5
Compass 81  –  66 (Intermediate Algebra Test)
ASSET 42  –  41 (Intermediate Algebra Test)
Work Samples (typically requires enrolling in a targeted work samples class for each subject) Students must produce 2 reading work samples, at least 1 of which must be informative. (Students could have 1 informative and 1 literary work sample or 2 informative work samples.) Each work sample must have a total score of 12 or higher, with no trait lower than 3. Traits are Demonstrate General Understanding, Develop an Interpretation, and Analyze Text. Work samples are scored locally with the official state reading scoring guide. Students must complete 2 writing work samples, at least one of which must be expository or persuasive, the other may be in any of the approved modes (expository, persuasive, narrative). Scores on each work sample must be 4 or higher in the required traits of Ideas/ Content, Organization, Sentence Fluency and Conventions. Work samples are scored locally with the official state reading scoring guide. Students must complete 2 mathematics problem solving tasks, one each for any two of the required content strands – Algebra, Geometry, or Statistics. Each work sample must score 4 or higher in all five Process Dimensions. The five Process Dimensions are “Making Sense of the Task,” “Representing and Solving the Task,” “Communicating Reasoning,” “Accuracy,” and “Reflecting and Evaluating.”  Work samples are scored locally with the official state reading scoring guide.

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.