It's good news that eight high schools in Umatilla and Morrow counties matched or exceeded the state average for percentage of CIM graduates in 2004.

But it's only one indicator of how well our schools are doing - and one that should be taken with a grain of salt since it remains an accomplishment void of incentive.

In case you've been asleep these past few years during the school accountability binge that swept the nation, CIM stands for Certificate of Initial Mastery.

A CIM diploma means the student met all state standards in writing, math, reading, science, and public speaking, including meeting the state benchmark in math and English testing and compiling the required number of work samples in a variety of subjects (which many believe are more accurate barometers of ability and mastery than a test score). Those are all good goals, but it's important to remember that it's not necessary to complete those standards to get a high school diploma, nor does anyone pay much attention once students move on from high school.

As Pendleton High School Principal Tom Lovell noted in a story in the East Oregonian on Tuesday, the CIM is "an Oregon thing." Colleges don't require it. The work world doesn't require it, nor do military services.

Last year, 51 percent of Pendleton's seniors earned a CIM degree. "We would love more kids to get it, but until there's more reward than a sticker on a diploma, that won't happen," Lovell predicted.

Still, it can't hurt, and local schools that exceeded the state average should be proud of the accomplishment. Ione led the way with a 75 percent CIM rate last year; Heppner was close behind at 70 percent.

Statewide, the CIM rate was 29.8 percent.

Heppner Principal Wade Smith called the high percentage "a wonderful feat, and it's not an easy feat." He credited both hard-working teachers and students who are starting to "buy-in."

Just remember, while the CIM is worthwhile, it's certainly not a definitive measure. But then again, there really isn't one.

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