DeKalb changes schedule to avoid testing on Jewish holidays

Several DeKalb parents sent me notes over the weekend about the scheduling of standardized tests during the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

I had no doubt DeKalb Schools would fix that conflict, given the concern of parents. And it has.

DeKalb Schools has changed its testing schedule so tests do not fall on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (LAURA NOEL/AJC)

DeKalb Schools has changed its testing schedule so tests do not fall on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (LAURA NOEL/AJC)

In a letter to the district, a parents group, noting that testing has been changed in the past related to Halloween, wrote in part:

Certainly Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—the Jewish new year and day of atonement—deserve equal treatment with Halloween.

This year Jews will observe these days–on which they go to synagogue instead of working or attending school–on Monday and Tuesday Sept 14-15 and Wednesday, Sept. 23.  The testing is scheduled from Sept 9-25.

If the school district maintains this schedule, it will pressure Jewish families to violate their religious tenets so that their children can have the best chance to qualify for gifted and other special programs.  They shouldn’t have to make that choice.

We are writing on behalf of a large group of concerned Jewish parents from a host of DeKalb schools, who met at B’nai Torah synagogue on Sunday to discuss this problem. We learned that the testing was moved from October to September: to get test results earlier so that gifted programs could start sooner.  We applaud that goal. But achieving it this year, under the current schedule, treats Jews with remarkable insensitivity and subjects teachers and students to costly inefficiency.

One veteran DeKalb teacher who attended our meeting noted that on typical make-up test days, “the assistant principal runs around like crazy” tracking down all of the children who missed tests.  This chaos will surely be more intense this year, given hundreds of Jewish children who will need make-up tests.  Just as examples, it is estimated that Jews make up at least 10 percent of Dunwoody Elementary and about 10 percent of Montgomery Elementary schools.  Parents who have expressed concern with us have children also at Vanderlyn, Austin, Chesnut, Peachtree Middle and other DeKalb schools

The parents were heard.

From DeKalb Schools just now:

DeKalb County School District Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green announced today important changes to the school testing calendar for the Cognitive Abilities Test and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills for the 2015-2016 school year.  These changes will remove all potential conflicts with religious observances.

The CogAT and ITBS are standardized tests used in the gifted identification process.

The revised testing calendar follows

Sept. 9, 10, 11, 16, 18, and 21 – ITBS

Sept. 22, 23, 24, and 25 – ITBS make-up

Oct. 5, 6,  and 7 – CogAT

Oct. 8 – CogAT make-up

“The revised school testing calendar removes all conflicts with religious holidays while ensuring timely testing for students,” said Dr. Green.  “We have been responsive to concerns that have been raised and we have sought and arrived at a solution that is in the best interest of our children.”

The Superintendent expressed appreciation for the work of the calendar committee that met in Fall 2014.  The committee was comprised of parents, teachers, students, business leaders, and administrators.

In reporting on the scheduling conflict, the AJC noted:

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.

Reader Comments 0

22 comments
DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

“We have been responsive to concerns that have been raised and we have sought and arrived at a solution that is in the best interest of our children.”


Enough said.

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

I guess administrators in DeKalb have no access to a common calendar that lists American holy days and feasts. I'll chip in to buy them one. (Let's not arc to Anti-Semtism, yet. Yet.)

gapeach101
gapeach101

My first year as a girl scout leader I scheduled an event on a Jewish holiday.  A parent pointed it out.  I never again scheduled an event without checking the calendar.

If I can do that as a volunteer, how difficult can it be for a paid employee? 

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

The Cynthia McKinney- Louis FaraKKKan faction of DeKalb County won't be happy about this !

MissDaisyCook
MissDaisyCook

What?  Soooooo, there is only a separation of church and state  issue if Christians involved?

RetiredParamedic
RetiredParamedic

Who will be indicted over this? Inquiring minds want to know!

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Glad Dekalb did the right thing and made the change.   Should never have even been scheduled on those days to begin with.

likeitis
likeitis

This is really going to piss off all the MLK Day Folks. 

tinala
tinala

@likeitis Some of you people are so IGNORANT until it laughable. The holiday has nothing to do with MLK day; because, it;s a National Holiday and even you Ignorant self will be off.

nothingpersonal
nothingpersonal

Maureen,


"I had no doubt DeKalb Schools would fix that conflict"  Really? Since when does DeKalb do the right thing? Green should be talking to the calendar committee folks.  Thanks to Nancy and Stan Jester for leading this change.  They met Sunday at a local synagogue with concerned parents, but you won't read that in the post.

Mandella88
Mandella88

@nothingpersonal

Saint Nancy the Jester saves the day again!  How proud she makes us all.  I look forward to her Tea Party rhetoric when a holiday for any other religion is impacted by testing.


Little Man Stan is just her puppet.  I hope that someone in Dunwoody will man-up and run against this clown.

JM64
JM64

It seems those who hate testing have been missing a golden opportunity. They should be working to get every possible holiday placed on the calendar in hopes to narrow down the test days to only a few weeks and therefore eliminating tests.

NHS
NHS

I don't understand how this could have been overlooked. Don't they look at various calendars for obvious conflicts. Even the "revised" schedule should be changed. An ITBS make-up on Yom Kippur (Sept. 23)? Let's hope no Jewish student needs that one. Also an ITBS exam on a day of fasting, Sept.16? And what about Shmini Atzeret on Oct.5 and Simchat Torah on Oct. 6? You can forget the CogAT! I guess Halloween is more important! In Judaism, "Holiday" is not a day for going to the beach or other recreational activities but a day spent in synagogue with family. 

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@NHS You'd be surprised.   People don't look at schedules, and even if they did, they don't care anyway.  Five years ago, the GGDA scheduled SiEGE CON on Yom Kippur, and one of the organizers was Jewish!  Go figure...

DunwoodyMom1
DunwoodyMom1

Unless it changed last school year, the calendar survey that parents take deal with the school calendar only - start date, holidays, etc.  Test dates are not part of the survey. The testing calendar is determined by the Dept of Research and Assessment within DCSD. 

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

Wait a second...they intentionally avoid testing on Halloween???  Tell us more!

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@RichardKPE In their letter to DeKalb Schools,  the parents state: 


Three years ago, tests for DeKalb County gifted programs were set for the day after Halloween. But when parents objected—noting that their children wouldn't get a good night's sleep after eating candy and staying up late—the school district changed the date of the test.  This story, as told by DeKalb School Board member Stan Jester and his wife Nancy Jester (a former school board member and current DeKalb commissioner), exemplifies why next month's CogAT and ITBS testing must be changed to avoid conflicting with Judaism's most holiest holidays.  Certainly Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—the Jewish new year and day of atonement—deserve equal treatment with Halloween.This year Jews will observe these days--on which they go to synagogue instead of working or attending school--on Monday and Tuesday Sept 14-15 and Wednesday, Sept. 23.  The testing is scheduled from Sept 9-25.