School testing on Rosh Hashanah raises concern with DeKalb parents

DeKalb County School officials said Monday they may change the district’s testing schedule after a backlash from parents over conflicts with the Jewish new year.

“I’ve charged a team to look at a solution that would not bring about a negative impact for anyone across the district,” said Superintendent Steve Green. “If there’s a way to do that, I will support that. There may be adjustments (to the schedule) in the next week.”

The Cognitive Abilities Test and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, scheduled for the first three full weeks of September, are used by the district to determine a student’s eligibility for gifted programs.

The calendar was put together by a committee last October before Green took his job, with members signing off on the fact that testing would take place during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In the process, about 6,000 surveys were collected from parents, teachers and other “stakeholders,” Green said. At no time did the holiday conflict come up as a major issue.

Green cautioned that several other holidays fall during the first two months of the school year that have to be taken into account when putting together the schedule, including the Islamic holidays Day of Arafat and Eid-ul-Adha.

Parent Michael Rock, who has two children in the school system, said he became aware of the testing conflict when the district calendar was released earlier this month.

“It’s unclear to us what (the district is) gaining by doing this,” he said Monday. “We’re hoping to an amicable solution in this.”

He and others put together the “Resolve DeKalb ITBS Testing” page on Facebook, which has about 285 followers as of Monday evening, after a meeting with concerned members of DeKalb’s Jewish community. The group also crafted a letter to give to Green during the meeting.

Rock said the testing schedule was changed several years ago because of parent concerns that children would not have enough time to recover from Halloween trick-or-treating.

“To not even be recognized on the same level as Halloween … would be a huge smack in the face,” he said.

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