Open Letter to Dr. Green,
I am writing today to express my concern about the dates for the upcoming administration of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) in the DeKalb County School District. As you know, the testing window includes two of the most sacred holy days for the Jewish faith. We are also the only metro district that has chosen to administer these tests in such a way as to conflict with these important holidays (1).
I do recognize that the movement of the testing window to mid-September is an attempt to help identify and deploy resources more quickly for those students that are identified as “gifted”. I commend the administration for recognizing the need to improve on this aspect of education. As a mom with two children in elementary school and one in middle school, I fully recognize the challenges of this process and its timeline. But, surely the faith traditions of our friends and neighbors must be given considerable weight when crafting the testing calendar. In 2011, the school district was advised by parents in early October that the testing schedule would include the day after Halloween. Parents pointed out the myriad of problems this created for students and communities, and the district, wisely, adjusted the schedule (2). When the district is flexible and listens to the community, it gains credibility and goodwill. I believe that our current scheduling conflicts represent just such an opportunity again.
DeKalb County has a large, vibrant, and active Jewish community. Several schools have such significant numbers of Jewish students that the current testing schedule may prove to be disproportionately disruptive and burdensome. We also have a number of Jewish teachers who will be forced to choose between their faith and the wellbeing of their students. The amount of make-up tests and substitute teachers that will likely be needed will result in the loss of regular instructional time at far greater levels than for other communities. This will create a hectic environment for our Jewish students and their non-Jewish classmates.
I respectfully ask that you and your administration reconsider the testing window for ITBS and CogAT. I know that you inherited this calendar from your predecessor. Please fix the mistake made by the previous administration and eliminate the scheduling conflict with the testing dates and the Jewish holidays. Please join me in standing with our Jewish students, teachers, friends, and neighbors so that they can fully observe their sacred, holy days. Please make sure that all of our students can have the optimal testing environment they all deserve.
DeKalb County, District 1
Cc: DeKalb Board of Education
(1) 2015 ITBS Testing Dates:
DeKalb: ITBS: Sept 14-25
Fulton: ITBS: Oct 19-23
Cobb: ITBS: Oct 5-8
Gwinnett: ITBS: Oct 19 – 28
APS: ITBS: Nov 30- Dec 11
Rockdale: ITBS Oct. 19-23
(2) —–Original Message—–
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, October 08, 2011 9:14 AM
To: Cheryl L.H. Atkinson
Cc: Ramona Tyson
Subject: ITBS testing dates
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.
Comments Off on 2015 DeKalb Schools Testing Schedule – Open Letter to Dr. Green
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)
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.” — Frederick Douglass
“Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”