D.C. Students To Take Nation's First Standardized Test on Health, Sex Education

September 15, 2011 — Starting this spring, students in Washington, D.C., public and public charter schools will take a standardized test on human sexuality, contraception and drug use, according to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the Washington Post reports. The fifty-question exam will be the nation's first school system-wide standardized test to measure students' knowledge of health and sex education. The test also will cover health topics such as drug use, nutrition and mental health.

Officials said the annual test will help them understand students' knowledge and possible reasons for their behaviors. The district's rates of teen pregnancy, childhood obesity and sexually transmitted infections are among the highest in the country.

The test will be administered to students in the fifth, eighth and 10th grades. Officials said the test is being developed under a provision in the district's Healthy Schools Act of 2010, which aims to address health issues in the 75,000 student school system. However, D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D), who sponsored the legislation, said the law does not mandate a standardize test but only that the district produce an annual report describing progress on student health issues.

Adam Tenner, executive director of MetroTeenAIDS, praised the test but noted that data from the organization already show that most school health education programs are seriously deficient. "We are not preparing teachers or students to get good, high-quality sex and reproductive education," Tenner said (Turque, Washington Post, 9/14).