Degenfelder Says Oregon Removing Education Standards A ‘Road To Failure’

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder says Oregon is going down a “road to failure” by not requiring students demonstrate mastery of reading, writing and math to graduate from high school.

Clair McFarland

October 26, 20233 min read

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction speaks in Denver during the 2023 Western Conservative Summit.
Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction speaks in Denver during the 2023 Western Conservative Summit. (Western Conservative Summit 2023 via YouTube)

Oregon’s Board of Education decided the state’s high school students won’t have to prove basic mastery of reading, writing or math to graduate from high school until at least 2029.  

Two top education officials in Wyoming say Oregon’s decision moves that state backward with public education.

“State and local education leaders need to unabashedly pursue and celebrate academic achievement,” said Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder in a Thursday email to Cowboy State Daily. “Students who are taught that performance doesn’t matter will not last long in the workforce and then soon become dependent on the rest of us.”  

Degenfelder said states moving away from a merit system and watering down accountability weakens the whole nation, and weakens “the very students they claim to be helping.” 

“We will not go down that road to failure in Wyoming,” Degenfelder added.  

Leaders at the Oregon Department of Education also received pushback over the plan, which is an extension of a COVID-19-era educational forgiveness plan, in their own state.  

But they countered, saying requiring all students to pass one of several standardized tests or create an in-depth assignment order to graduate is a harmful hurdle for historically marginalized students that doesn’t translate to meaningful improvements for students after high school, Oregon Live reported.  

So, So Different 

Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, who chairs the legislative House Education Committee, said he disagrees with Oregon’s plan altogether.  

There are multiple reasons for his disagreement, said Northrup. One is that Wyoming fared better and reopened sooner after the COVID-19 pandemic. He credited former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow for getting Wyoming’s schools reopened quickly after the spring 2020 semester.  

Northrup also credited Wyoming’s “more equitable funding model,” which he said gives marginalized students more opportunities for success.  

Wyoming leads the nation on some of its National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, a fact other lawmakers have attributed to the schools’ quick reopening as well.  

“There is no reason for Wyoming to emulate Oregon,” said Northrup.  

Set High Standards 

Beyond the differences between Wyoming and Oregon, Northrup said it’s better in general to set high standards for kids. Oregon is building a generation on the message that reading, writing and arithmetic are not important, he said.  

“Kids are resilient. Teachers are resourceful. Go back to your original plan and set high standards for your students,” Northrup said. “The teachers and the kids will rise to the occasion.”  

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter