THERE’S BEEN a lot of snickering about the District’s plans to test its public school and public charter students on health and sex education. But the problems being targeted — rates of childhood obesity, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy among the highest in the nation — are deadly serious. Whether testing is an effective means for ensuring that young people are well informed remains to be seen, but the novel approach is worthy of a serious discussion.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) is developing a 50-question exam to measure student knowledge of health issues ranging from nutrition and drug use to mental health and human sexuality. The test, which would be the first in the nation, would be administered in the spring on the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS), although only schools — not individual students or teachers — would receive scores. Officials say the tests will provide a base line of student knowledge on these critical issues and a way to measure the job schools are doing in providing health education to students.