Standardized test scores released Wednesday show select students in the nation's capital answered questions about disease prevention and nutrition correctly last spring at better rates than they did on the reading and math sections of their tests.
Among high school students, 75 percent correctly answered questions about sexuality and reproduction as part of the ground-breaking effort to assess youths' knowledge of health topics such as emotional health, safety skills and physical education, according to figures released by the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE).
More than 11,000 students from high school and grades 5 and 8 —who are enrolled in health courses — took the exam in April as part of the regularly scheduled standardized test called the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System.
Overall, students in both D.C. Public Schools and D.C. Public Charter Schools answered an average of 62 percent of the questions correctly, according to OSSE. The results exceeded the public school students' proficiency on in math and reading, at about 49 percent and 46 percent, respectively, in scores released in July.
However, respondents to the health questions may have included students who did not take the traditional DC CAS in those core subjects.
Adam Tenner, executive director of the Metro TeenAIDS organization that aims to prevent HIV infection among youth in the D.C. area, praised the exam as "historic."
"While the results are concerning to Metro TeenAIDS, they demonstrate exactly how serious this epidemic is and which schools are most in need of improvement. ...To be clear, the reproductive health assessment questions on the CAS exam are not a 'sex test' but a necessary component of any holistic curriculum," Mr. Tenner said.
D.C. officials established the health-related questions as a result of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 pushed by council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat.
The results will be presented to a pair of D.C. Council committees on Thursday, including one chaired by Ms. Cheh.
"Research shows that healthier students perform better academically," Deputy Superintendent Sandra Schlicker said. "D.C. continues to be cutting edge by placing emphasis on student health, understanding that good health is critical to the success of our students and the future generation of leaders in our city."
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