"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teaching to the Test Doesn't Stop at Academic Subjects: Students Tested on Personal Beliefs and Sexual Behavior.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)

Health Education Assessment Project (HEAP)

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Washington D.C. school students will be the first to take a new health standardized assessment to measure what they know about "human sexuality, contraception and drug use" as well as nutrition and mental health. Students will take this 50 question health and sex education assessment in addition to "reading and math (grades 3 through 8 and 10), composition (4, 7, 10), science (grade 5) and biology (grade 10)" in April 2012.

The test was developed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education based upon sample questions "devised by" the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Remember, the CCSSO is the organization along with the National Governor's Association (NGA) that formulated the Common Core Standards, a move toward nationalization of state standards. And also remember, these two private organizations are formulating standards and assessments for public schools using taxpayer money with no accountability.

So what we have are sex education, nutrition and mental health assessments rolled out by private organizations that public school students are being mandated to complete. What do parents think about this elbowing into students' private lives? The Washington Post reported that parents want to know more about the test and expressed concerns about more testing requirements. D.C. school officials say the test is in response to legislation; however, the bill sponsor said the legislation required only an annual report and not the creation of another standardized assessment. Officials recognize that parents may have differing opinions on this initiative.

In an updated Washington Post report, D.C. officials clarified that assessment results will only serve to report percentage of questions answered correctly and will not provide individual scores, nor affect teacher evaluations. This should certainly make parents feel better that personal questions on personal behavior aren't being graded (or so they say) by teachers, right? For those parents concerned about what and how their children are being taught about sensitive (and non-academic) subjects, maybe not.

From the CCSSO Health Education Assessment Project (HEAP) website, it delineates how Michigan, SC and DC are using this standardized assessment:

  • Michigan has aligned the item bank with their health curriculum. Michigan teachers can search the item bank by grade level and specific unit in the Michigan curriculum and develop their own appropriate classroom assessments. Michigan also is using the item bank to develop an opt-out test. Using the collaborative technology, Michigan's health education team evaluated, designated, and edited when needed, the desired items from the bank.
  • South Carolina utilized the item bank, collaborative editing and online testing capabilities, to develop and field-test several assessment forms at the elementary, middle and high school grade levels in preparation for a statewide health assessment.
  • DC Public Schools have also developed assessments utilizing HEAP items, with online assessments to begin in Spring 2011.

Michigan has an opt out capability for this test, but SC does not. Questions and thoughts for SC parents concerned about this intrusive assessment into their childrens' lives:
  • Are South Carolina parents, community members, and taxpayers in the dark as to the priority, legislative requirements, and costs related to this additional test?

  • Will South Carolina parents be advised and have a right to opt out during field and final implementation in accordance with SECTION 59-32-50. S.C. Code of Laws Title 59 Chapter 32 or will the absence of the word assessment lead to enforcement of taking the assessment?
  • Parents should be demanding an opt-out standardized testing option; in addition, parents should also demand any testing and/or teaching done in sex education and/or moral matters have active consent for such testing, rather than passive consent. Parents must give written consent EACH time such a test is administered.
  • South Carolina parents should also ask the state: how is such a test on sex education going to make students more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) ready? What does this assessment have to do with academic achievement? Why is the CCSSO formulating tests to assess students on "proper" behavior traditionally reserved for religious organizations and parents?
  • Parents need to review a copy of the entire test to determine the breadth of questions and if they are intrusive on personal religious or moral beliefs. Schools were formed to be institutions of academic learning. These tests serve the social service agencies' purposes now under some school roofs (HHS providing medical/social services) but again, how is this helping American students to become 'globally competitive' in academics?
  • Schools have students for 8 hours a day, allegedly teaching them skills to obtain meaningful employment. Schools are not medical clinics or therapist offices. Parents should review the curriculum to determine what their children are learning. Character Education taught in school begs the question, whose idea of character is the school teaching? Example: "If Susie has two mommies" and that's on the reading list for diversity purposes, and your child is tested for beliefs on homosexuality, how would your child be expected to answer? Whether or not you agree with homosexuality is immaterial; parents and children KNOW what the "correct" answer is according to the curriculum. If you as a parent are teaching your child a different answer than what is expected by the school, and he/she answers according to family belief, you might get ready to get a call from the school on discipline being doled out to your child. Your child won't 'fail' if he/she answers 'incorrectly', but as seen in Ft. Worth, Texas recently, a student can be suspended from school stating a politically incorrect opinion of homosexuality in school.
Let's revisit Nancy Reagan's mantra: "Just Say No." Don't allow your child to participate in a social experiment set up by private companies using tax dollars to track children. It's insidious and does not help your child academically. This type of testing has no place in schools and you should refuse to have your child participate in such a test. Shame on South Carolina and DC. Rather than focusing on what children know about sexuality (which used to be sacred rather than primarily a physical act), the tests should focus on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, understanding the difference between a republic and a democracy so this egregious trampling on the civil rights of parents, taxpayers and students never happens again.

Do you want to know more about what children will be assessed on in sex education, drug use, etc? The test bank of questions can be reviewed at the HEAP website. Take a brief pop quiz of questions taken from the test here.

When and why did private industries develop such a keen interest in your child's personal life and behavior? Is this a function of the DOE and the states to allow such intrusiveness by private companies?


  1. "And also remember, these two private organizations are formulating standards and assessments for public schools using taxpayer money with no accountability."


  2. Speaking of sex education, here’s a bit of an interesting tidbit I picked up today that I think you may also find a fun read: http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=U3XC0NGC6TV7&preview=article&linkid=b538c764-2c73-4426-a1f9-5b396fcd59cc&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d



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