D.C. to Implement Nation’s First Standardized ‘Sex Education’ Test
By Shannon Ingram, SIECUS Program Research Intern
Starting in Spring 2012, all students attending the fifth, eighth, or tenth grade in a Washington D.C. public school (or publicly-funded charter school) will be required to take a standardized health education test which includes questions on human sexuality and contraception. The 50-question tests will occur once per school year, and will also include questions about drug use, mental health, and nutrition.
Some stakeholders expressed dismay at the use of standardized testing to address life skills that might be better addressed through improved teaching methods and teacher training. “Teaching to the test for health, too?” asked Nakisha Winston, head of the PTA at Langdon Education Campus in Northeast Washington.1
Several city council members and some parents voiced concerns over the mandatory nature of the test; an “opt out” option for parents who do not want their child to take the test is under discussion.1 Local lawmakers are still soliciting viewpoints from both parents and students.
Rates of teen pregnancy, STI’s, and childhood obesity in the nation’s capital are among the highest in the country. Many district adolescent health stakeholders believe that the new standardized test will enforce better sexual health education, as well as inform local policy makers about what teens truly about these subjects. The district will also compile an annual report on the progress of education in these topic areas.
1 Bill Turque, “D.C. Schools Prepare for Nation’s First Sex-Education Standardized Testing,” 14 September 2011, accessed 7 October 2011, <http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dc-students-to-be-tested-on-sex-education/2011/09/12/gIQAnhyCTK_story.html>.
2 Neal Augenstein and Mark Seagraves, “D.C. Students to Take Standardized Sex Ed Test,” WTOP 15 September 2011, accessed 7 October 2011 <http://www.wtop.com/?nid=41&sid=2545962>.