Jewish public school parents in DeKalb County declared victory Tuesday, Aug. 25, when Superintendent Stephen Green announced a new standardized testing schedule that eliminates conflicts with the High Holidays.
“It is a testament to the power of the people — several concerned parents who raised their voices and inspired a broader community to take action,” parents group Resolve DeKalb ITSB Testing posted on its Facebook page. “We are delighted we won’t have to choose between school and the high holidays.”
DeKalb’s schedule for the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, used in identifying gifted students, had included Sept. 15, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and Sept. 23, Yom Kippur. The first day of Rosh Hashanah was the makeup date for another standardized test, the Cognitive Abilities Test.
Rich Litner, Alan Kitey and Shari Magnus organized a parents meeting Sunday, Aug. 23, at Congregation B’nai Torah, Litner’s synagogue, with DeKalb Board of Education member Stan Jester and his wife, county Commissioner Nancy Jester.
Both Jesters urged Green to change the testing schedule. Parents launched a letter-writing campaign, and rabbis including B’nai Torah’s Joshua Heller and Temple Sinai’s Ron Segal applied pressure.
“The revised school testing calendar removes all conflicts with religious holidays while ensuring timely testing for students,” Green said Aug. 25.
The schedule does create a conflict with another standardized test, the Cognitive Abilities Test, which will conflict with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah on Oct. 5 and 6. Cobb County has the same conflict with its ITBS testing, as well as a CogAT conflict with the second day of Sukkot.
New DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green, who inherited the schedule, acknowledged in a message to Board of Education member Stan Jester that the testing creates a religious conflict not only for Jewish students, but also for Muslims and Hindus.
Jester has asked Green to change the testing dates, as has his wife, county Commissioner Nancy Jester. She noted the high proportion of Jewish students in DeKalb schools, which Litner said tops 10 percent.
Parents are sending letters to Green and school board members to try to change the test dates, as DeKalb did three years ago to avoid a conflict with Halloween.
“It seems like they would make the same accommodation for the holiest of holidays,” Litner said.