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Revisit CIM/CAM

Local editorials

Scrapping the school testing system would be rash, but it needs scrutiny

Efforts in the Legislature to dump the CIM/CAM system of measuring student progress are likely an overreaction. But it's clear that, budget crisis or no budget crisis, the system needs review and revision.

Rep. Randy Miller, R-Lake Oswego, has argued the process of awarding certificates of initial mastery and certificates of advanced mastery is too expensive and educationally unproven. The State Department of Education and school administrators say the system works. Many teachers say the system handicaps them. Students, parents and most of the general public still have no idea what CIM and CAM really accomplish.

We suspect the real truth about CIM and CAM are that they do some good, but have some unintended consequences ' like hurting art, music and other programs that aren't part of the testing. We don't think they cost school districts the &

36;500 million that Miller suggested, but we're sure they cost more than the &

36;10 million put forth by supporters of the programs.

The suggestion that CIM and CAM be summarily expelled from school is too extreme. It's tempting now, with the state and schools facing financial chaos, to eliminate anything that isn't essential. But hasty decisions made in times of crisis often prove to be bad decisions.

There probably is merit to a different plan, this one proposed by Rep. Vic Backlund, a Republican from Keizer and a former teacher. He says he will introduce a bill that would lessen the CIM/CAM requirements and link it more directly with the mandated federal system of student testing.

Backlund says he will seek input from teachers, parents, students and others when he holds hearings on the bill. That's a start, but we suggest he and fellow legislators take it a step further. The state should form a blue-ribbon panel and hold hearings throughout Oregon to take input. The panel should include legislators, teachers, administrators and parents and should not be under the thumb of the Department of Education, which clearly has already staked out its position on CIM/CAM.

That panel should make recommendations for change to the next Legislature, recommendations that reflect what the people of Oregon want taught in their schools instead of what the superintendent of public instruction wants.

CIM and CAM were begun with the best of intentions, based on new educational theories. Now it's time to revisit the original plans, ensure we're meeting the intentions and make changes that turn the theories into reality.

Good news

A federal grant is giving Southern Oregon a new method to treat new opiate addicts ' those who have not yet built up a tolerance for large quantities of drugs.

Buprenorphine will be available to physicians trained in its use. The Oregon Health and Science University in Portland developed the grant proposal, intending to reach some 3,200 people in an eight-county region ' including 660 in Jackson County ' who are dependent on illegal drugs such as heroin.

In addition to Jackson County, the grant covers Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, Josephine, Deschutes, and Klamath counties. The grant totals &

36;128,000.

Methadone currently is the drug users' main treatment option. Like methadone, buprenorphine satisfies addicts' craving for drugs. Buprenorphine will not replace methadone, but will be an additional tool to treat drug addicts.

Officials say they are yet unsure whether buprenorphine will halt problems created by cutbacks at methadone treatment clinics. On March — the Oregon Health Plan will eliminate drug treatment for many addicts, including more than 100 in Jackson and Josephine counties.

It's good to hear that an alternative to methadone exists, even though buprenorphine apparently will be mostly effective for new users. It's going to be a nice additional tool to treat opiate addicts, says Dr. Jim Shames, who works with Jackson County drug users.

We're not sure that nice is exactly the right word to describe this new drug. We'll accept good and hope that buprenorphine really will help some drug users, and alleviate some of the budget cutbacks that soon will hit the methadone programs in Jackson and Josephine counties.