Woke society continues to take aim at the nation’s education systems, insisting that minority students are simply incapable of meeting the academic standards that other students are expected to reach.

One example: Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 744 into law in July. The governor’s deputy communications director said in an email that suspending the reading, writing and math proficiency requirements while the state develops new graduation standards will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”

This statement implies that minorities are inherently unable to achieve the same level of success as other student populations, solely because of the color of their skin. In addition, according to a 2019 legislative report, Oregon’s public schools were reported to have one of the worst graduation rates in the nation. Lowering standards will not lead to higher student success; it will lead to far worse economic and social outcomes for the very students that this policy seeks to help.

Meanwhile, school districts in cities like Philadelphia have lowered educational expectations for student populations, while New York has proposed plans to hold students to different standards in accordance with their race.

The fact is, we are doing our children a great disservice by lowering standards. While lowering education standards or inflating grades might mask the problem, educators ultimately set up their students for failure and impede their ability to be a functioning member of society.

If we teach our youth that their future is limited by the color of their skin, they will always hold themselves to lower standards. We need to instill an understanding in our children that they can achieve success, regardless of their skin color or circumstances.

Lowering performance standards for students not only reduces students’ motivation to learn, but also leads to lower academic outcomes. In fact, a study published by the Fordham Institute shows how rigorous grading practices lead to higher test scores among students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

The solution is not as crazy as one might think. We need not excuse students from learning, but rather, help them learn how to solve problems. Actions like lowering standards or making children think that they cannot accomplish something leads to students who cannot articulate a formal argument nor demonstrate the mental capacity needed to function. We can support those struggling without lowering standards, while providing more rigorous learning options to pupils who meet or exceed basic learning expectations.

If students are not expected to reach basic math, reading, and writing skills upon graduating high school, our tax dollars should be given to education providers who will encourage our students to succeed.

There’s a concern that standards force education into a cookie-cutter mold. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Students should be empowered to learn the skills and knowledge they need for life in ways and on timelines that meet their individual needs. The pathways to get there can and should be as unique as each child is. Instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to education, our schools should provide students with greater opportunities to strengthen their unique abilities. The answer is not to erase the finish line, but to help each child cross it.

Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” The pursuit of knowledge is not a one-stop shop. Parents need more options.

Texas has made great strides in ensuring the proper education of our young minds, but there is still work to be done. Innovative learning opportunities like those provided by outcome-based learning would encourage more students to graduate and will prepare them for high-wage, high-demand occupations, which is the best means of demonstrating that a student is career ready. For this reason, outcomes-based learning, included in HB 3204, merits increased attention and continued advocacy from state lawmakers.

HB 3204 sought to address the skilled trade gap by creating an incentive for schools to create pathways to such occupations.

The Lone Star State should not give up on its children or simply pass them along to subsequent grade levels. By investing in each individual student—regardless of the color of that student’s skin—we invest in the future of our state and forge a more prosperous Texas.