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Local editorials

Time to try something new A replacement for CIM and CAM must be more than just another test

Want to gripe about the CIM and CAM, the high school mastery certificates created during the 1991 Legislature? Join the club.

Students, teachers and parents have hated them for years. Taxpayers have balked at their costs. Legislators have attempted to push them out the door.

Now state Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo has jumped on board as well, announcing last week that even she is tired of kicking around the supposed reforms of 1991's Oregon Educational Act for the 21st Century.

It's time to try something new, she says.

We editorialized in April against an attempt in the Legislature to kill the certificate of initial mastery, a voluntary badge of achievement for students who pass 10th-grade state tests in reading, math, writing and science and complete classroom work samples in writing, math and public speaking. It has served as a measure of student progress, we said, even as budget problems have tripped it up and as some educators have dragged their heels.

That's all true enough, but it's not the whole story. In fact, the 1991 reforms called for high standards for all students, more early childhood education, professional-technical education for high school students and the extension of the school year to 220 days by 2010.

— Instead we've got in the CIM a voluntary measurement that only a third of students achieve, in the CAM (or certificate of advanced mastery) just drawing-board concepts, and in the school year just 175 days, about the same as before reform efforts started.

Despite years of effort, it's time to acknowledge this isn't working.

Dropping the CIM and CAM shouldn't be a prelude to dropping student measurement entirely, of course. That's not even a possibility given federal No Child Left Behind laws. But Castillo said last week that she and the state Board of Education already are working on alternatives.

They seem to know that this time they need buy-in from teachers and from students, and that the new effort needs to be something students have reason to earn.

In this, they have an opportunity to create something more than just another test in a test-heavy system. They have the opportunity to make a change that truly will reform Oregon's high schools.

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The typical transient, who is jobless because of substance abuse or mental illness, still exists, but increasingly, entire families are in crisis, changing the profile of the homeless person. St. Vincent de Paul, a local social service organization, plans to help provide a solution, but it needs help.

St. Vincent de Paul plans to expand services to the needy in a &

36;2.7 million building project named Beacon of Hope. The beginning stages of construction are under way and about &

36;2.3 million has been raised. Recently, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has pledged &

36;150,000 if a matching amount can be raised.

The focus for acquiring the needed match is to get individual donors to contribute &

36;50 to the Buy a Square Foot fund-raising campaign. We encourage our readers to take up the cause.