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The 50-question exam will be the nation’s first statewide standardized test on health and sex education, according to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which developed the assessment for grades 5, 8 and 10.
The District’s rates of childhood obesity, sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy are among the country’s highest. Periodic surveys have detailed student attitudes toward risky behavior, but officials said the annual test will fill gaps in their understanding of what young people know and why they might behave the way they do.
I checked out the Post’s sample quiz, which has nine questions—-three for elementary students, three for middle school students, and three for high schoolers. The sample questions lean toward the kind of common or gut-level knowledge that people typically pick up as they grow older, and may or may not learn in gym class. One question for elementary kids:
Tomorrow morning Beth wants to go on the fifth-grade mile run. To be at her best, Beth should:
- eat very little for lunch and dinner the day before the run.
- relax the night before the run and go to bed early.
- run an extra mile for practice the day before the run.
- have a big breakfast the morning of the run.
Aside from the first answer, which would put Beth on the path to an eating disorder, lots of people might do any or all of the last three options to prepare for a mile run. The correct answer, however, is the second one: “relax the night before the run and go to bed early.”
One question for high schoolers is about healthy relationships:
Jeffrey and Maria, seniors in high school, have been going together for two years. During the Thanksgiving holiday Maria suddenly breaks up with Jeffrey. What would be the most healthful way for a friend to help Jeffrey?
- Tell him that Maria isn’t worth it, so forget about her.
- Suggest activities that he and Jeffrey can do together.
- Find out from Maria why she broke up with Jeffrey.
- Suggest that he quickly find another girlfriend.
If this were a sitcom, Jeffrey’s friends would probably do all four things, but in real life, students are supposed to select the second choice, “Suggest activities that he and Jeffrey can do together.”
There are more concrete questions that gather how much students know about the transmission of HIV (people who have other STDs are more at risk) or which food is better for getting calcium (yogurt, not corn), but some of the squishier ones make me wonder how useful this test will actually be.
Obviously there is a problem in how DCPS students—-who are 79 percent black, and part of the demographic most at risk for STDs, obesity, and health issues—-are being taught about health. But this test can only be the first step in fixing that problem.