SALEM - Supporters of Oregon's school reform program on Monday urged lawmakers to stay the course and resist any efforts to weaken the 1991 program.

"We don't want to send a confusing message that what we're doing isn't worthy," said Kate Dickson, who recently retired as deputy state school superintendent.

Dickson was one of several educators who appeared before a House panel with the message that the state needs to maintain the program's tough academic standards and statewide testing.

Some lawmakers want to pull the plug on the reform program altogether, saying it's expensive and irrelevant.

The House Education Committee heard testimony Monday from backers of the program. Testimony from opponents will be come later.

The reform effort requires high school students to meet the higher standards before they can earn certificates of initial and advanced mastery in reading, writing and math.

It also requires teachers to collect work and maintain a portfolio on each student that includes such items as writing samples, solutions to math problems and videos of students' classroom presentations

A bill has been introduced in the 2003 Legislature to eliminate the initial mastery certificates and advanced mastery certificates, known as the CIM and CAM.

The sponsor of the measure, Rep. Randy Miller, said the CIM and CAM have turned out to be expensive and time consuming and have failed to prove themselves as a valuable part of schooling.

"I've had so many educators, students and parents share their frustration about these expensive and meaningless exercises that I think it's time for a serious review," the West Linn Republican said.

But backers said Monday that the state needs to maintain the academic standards and statewide testing to make sure students are mastering skills rather than just accumulating "seat time" in school.

"Oregon can be proud of the overall results of our reform effort," Dickson told the House panel.

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