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.