POLK COUNTY -- Earlier this month the Oregon Legislature passed new graduation requirements for high school seniors.
Beginning with the Class of 2014 (students who are currently fifth graders) students will have to complete three years of math at the Algebra I level or above.
The three years of math isn't new. What is different is the level of math that is expected.
Beginning with the Class of 2012 (today's seventh graders), graduates will need three credits of science and two lab credits. This years seventh graders will also be the first to have fewer elective credits and more arts and letters requirements.
The idea, according to supporters, is to make a high school diploma more meaningful.
Some educators, including Dallas High School Principal Keith Ussery, believe that dictating how schools teach kids can harm creativity and the learning process.
"I am an advocate for defining performance standards and then allowing schools and districts to figure out how to get students to that level," Ussery said.
"More courses on a transcript does not guarantee that students have learned more -- it only guarantees that they have spent less time doing more courses."
Ussery said the new math and science requirements will probably mean that a new hire is in the future for DHS. However, finding new math and science teaching talent is often not an easy thing -- especially in a state that pays its teachers less but requires more education than do many other states.
In 2007 the National Education Association ranked Oregon 15th in average pay for its teachers, but Oregon is just one of two states that requires its elementary and secondary teachers to hold masters degrees or above.
"Quality math and science teachers will be difficult to come by as we begin to implement the new graduation requirements statewide," Ussery said.
"I don't see any indication that the pool of quality applicants is going to improve any time soon."
The new requirements are also designed to phase out the state's CIM and CAM requirements and put a heavier emphasis on post-graduation planning.
Each students will still be required to complete an education plan and profile, meet career-related learning standards, engage in career-related learning experiences, and submit an extended application that focuses specifically on what he or she wants to do after high school.
In a press release, the Oregon Department of Education said: "The board supports modifying the 21st Century Schools Act by transitioning the best elements of the act into a more rigorous diploma. The Oregon Legislature will take up the CIM/CAM during the current session. More information will be available later in 2007."