Testing Dates and Religious Holidays

 Open Letter to Dr. Green From Commissioner Nancy Jester
 2015 – 2016 Testing Calendar
 2015 – 2016 School Calendar
.pdf link icon  Nancy Jester’s 2011 Email – Halloween
.doc link icon  Community Email to District
facebook  Resolve Dekalb ITBS Testing

Stan Jester
Board Of Education
District 1

I have expressed my concerns to DeKalb Schools about the testing calendar and the conflict and burden it places on our Jewish community’s most important Holy Days.  It appears the DeKalb Schools district goes through a two step process with calendar development.
The first step is to determine the actual start and stop dates for the school year and place into the calendar the various holidays, planning days, make up days and pre-planning days.  That first process appears to have a solid review process and solicits feedback.
The second step in the process is to determine testing dates within the calendar.  This second process does not appear to receive the same level of scrutiny.  Rather than vetting the testing dates through the calendar committee and the board, the DCSD’s Department of Research, Assessments, and Grants selects the testing windows and places them on the calendar.
Some of you may recall that in 2012 the school system scheduled testing for the day after Halloween.  Concerned parents lobbied the school district to reconsider the wisdom of that schedule and the district changed the testing date.  We expect school to be scheduled on Halloween, Ash Wednesday, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur.  However, it is not a good idea to schedule major tests on those days.
Twice, I have asked the administration to reconsider the September and October testing dates.  Below is the latest response from Superintendent Stephen Green to my request (and Marshall Orson’s request) to change the ITBS testing dates.

Subject: Testing Dates and Religious Holidays
By: Superintendent Stephen Green

This [message] serves to provide a context of the measures the District takes to plan a school calendar and provide equitable attention, application, and solutions for accommodating students from various religious backgrounds.
In accordance with Board Policies AEA and AEA-R, the Calendar Committee convened in September 2014 to develop the 2015-2016 school calendar recommendation. The Calendar Committee was comprised of a variety of stakeholder groups from Regions I-V, including students, parents, community/business partners, school-level staff, and district-level advisors. The diverse stakeholder group represented different nationalities and faiths.
During the work sessions in September, the Calendar Committee researched and discussed the number of days per year, number of days per semester, inclement weather or emergency days, religious observances, spring holidays, testing windows, and other metro area school districts’ calendars. The committee members were divided into two work groups for the purpose of developing a minimum of two calendar options. Each group developed one calendar option and presented the draft to the full Calendar Committee to identify similarities and differences. The committee members discussed the possible impact on families and made revisions.
Also, the members decided to obtain stakeholder input through a survey/questionnaire instead of a vote. The online calendar survey opened for public feedback on October 10, 2014 and closed October 20, 2014. The total number of surveys completed was 6020. At the final official meeting on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, the members reviewed the feedback from stakeholders and made the final recommendation to the Superintendent.
Once the Board of Education approved the 2015-2016 school calendar and the Georgia Department of Education released the official 2015-2016 testing schedule, the Department of Research, Assessments, and Grants developed the District’s testing calendar. The Department of Research, Assessments, and Grants considered the religious observances identified below, feedback received from the school calendar survey, dialogue with elementary principals, and noted findings in the gifted audit report to develop the extensive yearly calendar.

The testing calendar specifies that the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) will be administered September 9-25, 2015. The CogAT and ITBS are standardized tests used in the gifted identification process. In an effort to identify gifted eligible students, the CogAT and ITBS will be administered in September instead of October. The score reports will arrive earlier, thereby allowing schools to continue the gifted identification process with the necessary data in a timely fashion.
Although the published time frame for the ITBS is ten days, only six days are needed to administer the ITBS and four days are allocated as make-up days. Since the testing window includes four make-up days for students who miss a component of the ITBS, a parent/guardian should communicate the absence with the local school to ensure that the child has the opportunity to make-up the missed component because of an excused religious observance. Please note that the ITBS testing window impacts students who observe Rosh Hashanah, Ganesh Chaturthi, Day of Arafat, Yom Kippur, Madon, and Eid-ul-Adha.

Five days are allocated for ITBS testing in 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades and six days for 1st grade. Schools may conduct make-up sessions on the designated days or in the afternoon immediately following the morning administration.
Dr. R. Stephen Green, Superintendent
DeKalb County School District
2015-2016 Religious Holidays (Defined by DeKalb Schools)

Date Holiday Religion
Sun-Tues. – Sept. 13-15, 2015 Rosh Hashanah Judaism
Thurs. – Sept. 17, 2015 Ganesh Chaturthi Hindu
Tues. – Sept. 22, 2015 Day of Arafat Islam
Tues. – Wed. Sept. 22-23, 2015 Yom Kippur Judaism
Wed. – Sept. 23, 2015 Madon Pagan
Wed. – Sat. Sept. 23-24, 2015 Eid-ul-Adha Islam
Sun. – Tues. Sept. 27-29, 2015 Sukkot Judaism
Wed. – Sun. Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2015 Sukkot Judaism
Tues. – Wed. Oct. 13-21, 2015 Navrati Hinduism
Fri. – March 25, 2016 Good Friday Orthodox Christian
Sun. – March 27, 2016 Easter Orthodox Christian
Thurs. Apr. 14, 2016 Baisakhi Hindu
Thurs. Apr. 21, 2016 Ridvan Baha’i
Fri. – Sun. Apr. 25-28, 2016 Passover Judaism
Mon. – Thurs. Apr. 25-28, 2016 Passover Judaism
Thurs.- Sat. Apr. 28-30, 2016 Passover Judaism
Fri. – Apr. 29, 2016 Great Friday Orthodox Christian
Fri. – Sat. May 6-7, 2016 Lag B’Omer Judaism
Tues. May 24, 2016 Pentecost Christian

Related Links Docs

 DeKalb Schools 2015 – 2016 Testing Calendar
ITBS Testing Dates Around Atlanta

  • DeKalb: ITBS: Setp 14-25
  • Fulton: ITBS: Oct 19-23, 2015
  • Cobb: ITBS: October 5-8
  • Gwinnett: ITBS: October 19 – 28
  • APS: ITBS: November 30- December 11
  • Rockdale: ITBS Oct. 19-23, 2015

12 responses to “Testing Dates and Religious Holidays

  1. So that’s a “no” for changing the dates?
    Aside from RH and YK, I have never heard of any of the holidays, and know nothing about how they are celebrated or what’s involved. I can only speculate though that all of the holidays will involve disruptions to the child’s schedule and routine, including meals and probably most importantly, bedtime. I certainly would hate for my children to have to test either the day before or after Christmas, for example.
    Granted, there is probably no time that won’t create a conflict for someone, but I Persian let think that scheduling over RH and YK is a no-no. (Again, I know nothing of the other holidays so can’t speculate).

  2. It may be more productive and important to list the actual uninterrupted instructional days
    per year, instead of months of testing dates.
    The majority of school days in September is taken up with COGAT & ITBS. Last week was taken up with STAR testing. Last school year robbed children of too many GA Milestone test-prep, testing the workings of computers and then the actual testing. None of those results have come back or are useful for instruction by teachers.
    DCS follows the constant testing insanity practiced throughout the country. The corporate testing profiteers love it and laugh all the way to the banks…off shore. Testing for months is a profit machine for corporations, foundations and privatizers.
    There is consistent information we can conclude from months of lost instructional time – we are yielding data that supports clearly: high scores reflect families with high income and low scores predict kids living in poverty. Add to that months of test-prep and endless mandated tests per year… We again find out that we are losing valuable teaching time.
    Please let teachers teach & let children learn.
    Testing is not teaching!
    Stop the Toxic Testing Madness!
    Hoping that GA PARENTS wake up and Opt-Out their children from months of testing.

  3. H.A. Hurley, The school district is required to administer these state and federally mandated standardized tests. There is definitely a nationwide push to reevaluate the efficacy of all these tests. Georgia’s State Superintendent’s is pushing to reduce the number of tests and amount of paperwork required by teachers. Just last month the DOE announced a reduction in the number of SLOs to be administered next year.
    The current issue surrounds the scheduling of ITBS and CogAT. As you probably know, those tests are used to identify Gifted and High Achievers. The school district pushed that date up to identify those students sooner. By doing so they scheduled it over some important Holy Days.

  4. What about teachers who will need time to observe these holidays? Testing is serious business with severe consequences if you get it wrong. How will this impact testing?

  5. Teachers may observe the Jewish Holidays. On those days, it will be another stress point having substitute teachers there on test days. I don’t believe the school district tracks the Jewish population of teachers or students. As an anecdote, Nancy and I met with members of the Congregation B’nai Torah this morning. A rabbi told me they estimated that 10% of the students at Montgomery ES observed the Jewish Holidays.

  6. Do you know the composition of the Calendar Committee? I am curious whether the committee had any Jewish members. My guess is the committee did not.

  7. Jeremy, I am not aware of the religious makeup of the Calendar Committee. Dr. Green only said “[it] was comprised of a variety of stakeholder groups from Regions I-V, including students, parents, community/business partners, school-level staff, and district-level advisors. The diverse stakeholder group represented different nationalities and faiths.”
    The Calendar Committee determines the actual start and stop dates for the school year and place into the calendar the various holidays, planning days, make up days and pre-planning days. While I would like to see the district observe more Jewish Holidays, I expect to have school on Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur. The Department of Research, Assessments, and Grants develops the district’s testing calendar. The testing calendar doesn’t get the same scrutiny the school calendar gets.

  8. Jeremy Berry

    Thank you for the response. I don’t think school school be canceled for Jewish holidays, but do think this is an easy issue that could have been avoided if someone was aware of the Jewish Holidays (which would have happened if there was input from parents of Jewish students). I appreciate all you are doing on this issue and attending the meeting yesterday.

  9. This is simply dumb — DCSS has been sanctioned twice in the last two years by the feds. Recentlty, US DOE Office of Civil Rights for violations related to treatment of Hispanic families. And once by the Dept of Justice related to bullying of a child from a religious minority.
    Right hand meet left hand. DCSS takes every opportunity to do the right thing and then messes it up. Gwinnet, Cobb and Fulton are all testing in October.
    I have written before that the DeKalb way is often the wrong way. Once again, they prove my point.

  10. Jeremy Shedrow

    This scheduling is incredibly offensive and ignorant is in no way any different than if they scheduled testing on Christmas or Easter.

  11. July 29, 2013
    From: U.S. Department of Education, OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
    Dear Mr. Thurmond, Interim Superintendent:
    This is to advise you of the resolution of the above-referenced compliance review that was initiated by the U.S. Department of Education (Department), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), against the DeKalb County School District (District) under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, and its implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Part 100. The compliance review focused on whether the District discriminates against national origin minority limited English proficient (LEP) parents by failing to adequately communicate with them and to ensure that they have meaningful access to school-related information that is provided to parents in English, in noncompliance with Title VI and its implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. § 100.3(a) and (b).
    Continue Reading Here >>
    November 18, 2014
    From:US Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs
    The Department of Justice and United States Attorney’s Office reached a settlement agreement today with the DeKalb County, Georgia, school district to resolve the department’s inquiry into the district’s ability to prevent and effectively respond to peer-on-peer harassment based on national origin and religion.
    Continue Reading Here >>

  12. .
    ———- Original Message ———-
    From: nancy_jester@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us [mailto:nancy_jester@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us]
    Sent: Saturday, October 08, 2011 9:14 AM
    To: Superintendent Cheryl L.H. Atkinson
    Cc: Ramona Tyson
    Subject: ITBS testing dates
    Dr. Atkinson,
    I am writing to let you know that I continue to get emails from parents who are very upset about ITBS being given at Halloween. It appears to them that we are not responsive to their legitimate concerns and that we aren’t flexible enough to admit that perhaps, in hindsight, this was not the best testing window. As the Mom of 3 small children, 2 of whom will be taking the ITBS, I am sympathetic to these concerns.
    It is my fervent hope that we will consider making a change here. Our testing scores are already a public relations disaster so we can use all the help we can get to provide our students the best opportunity to perform well. Halloween testing seems risky to me.
    Thank you for hearing me out on this matter. I stand ready to support and assist you.