The senior class of 2012 will be under increased pressure to perform on standardized tests to earn diplomas as new state requirements in reading go into effect this year.

The senior class of 2012 will be under increased pressure to perform on standardized tests to earn diplomas as new state requirements in reading go into effect this year.

Based on data released by the state Department of Education on Monday, the Medford School District is running about even with the state average of students who meet the new requirements, with more than 80 percent of its class of 2012 making the cut.

This year's class will be required to pass the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test in reading in order to receive a diploma.

The class of 2013 will have to pass the OAKS test in reading and writing, and the class of 2014 will have to pull off a trifecta of reading, writing and math tests.

The Medford School District reported that 82 percent of the class of 2012 had passed the reading test as of last year, scoring about even with the statewide average of 83 percent. The district scored 67 percent in math versus a statewide 68 percent, and 73 percent in writing versus the state's 68 percent for the 2010-11 school year.

Medford School District Curriculum Assessment Supervisor Debbie Connolly said she supported the state raising its expectations, but disliked the constant change of standards in the system.

"I'm always happy when we aim higher … but I wish they would slow down and let us catch up a bit," Connolly said.

Connolly said if students didn't pass the state tests, they could still earn a diploma by successfully completing state-authorized Local Performance Assessment Tasks tests.

Under an LPAT, local educators can determine whether a student has demonstrated a basic understanding of the material through written responses.

The reading and math OAKS can be taken up to three times a year by a high school student, but only one attempt is allowed for the writing portion this year because of state budget cuts.

The OAKS reading and math tests don't have a minimum passing score and instead offer students new questions based on their past performance in an attempt to assess their overall knowledge.

Oregon DOE Acting Communications Director Crystal Greene said she didn't believe increased test standards would lower graduation rates but might improve them because of increased motivation to perform well on the tests.

"If you look at the four-year graduate rate, it's 66 percent, and if you look at student scores in reading, writing and math, they're already above that," she said.

Sample questions for the various tests can be found at http://www.oaks.k12.or.us/students.html.

Mat Wolf is a reporting intern from the University of Oregon. Reach him at 541-776-4481 or by email at mwolf@mailtribune.com.