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Nation’s First Sex-Ed Standardized Testing Shows Students’ Gaps

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The District of Columbia has released results for the nation’s first-ever standardized test that includes sex-education, showing that fifth- and eighth-graders have a lot to learn about their bodies.

The test, known as the 2012 District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS), was administered to fifth-graders, eighth-graders and high school students throughout the city. Results were posted today, and show that even though students answered an average of 62 percent of questions correctly, they have work to do.

“The results that we received will be very helpful in determining the improvements needed to be made for teacher professional development training and create challenging material that can further student’s  interest and knowledge in personal health,” Ayan Islam, communications specialist for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, told ABC News.

Islam says the test is part of landmark legislation passed in 2010, requiring agencies to provide more in-depth reporting and engagement of various community stakeholders with different interests.

More than 11,000 students from fifth-grade through high school were enrolled in health courses and then selected to take the 50-question exam in April. The exam measured students’ knowledge in health-related categories, including wellness, disease prevention, physical education and healthy decision-making.

“Fifth-graders seem to know a lot more when it comes to recognizing their own personal health,” Islam said. “When it comes to general knowledge and physical education on alcohol, tobacco and drugs, they have a slight idea, but may not be exposed enough to give them an awareness to be prepared when they are exposed to those things.”

Sample questions included a discussion on a healthy pregnancy to steps students should take to maintain a healthy diet.

In this sample question, administrators asked fifth-graders about disease prevention.

Health Strand 1: Students comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention.

Health Standard 5.1.7: Define STIs [sexually transmitted infections] and HIV/AIDS; describe behaviors that place one at risk for HIV/AIDS, STIs, or unintended pregnancy; and explain why abstinence is the most effective way to prevent disease or pregnancy.

Example Item:
People can get HIV/AIDS by –
1.    Touching a person who has HIV/AIDS
2.    Sitting beside a person on the Metro who has HIV/AIDS
3.    Having sexual intercourse with a person who has HIV/AIDS
4.    Sharing drinks or utensils with a person who has HIV/AIDS

Fifth-graders scored 66 percent overall in the disease-prevention portion.

“Engaging students in health-based learning is an area our agency is committed to addressing every single day,” State Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley Jones said in a news release.

Jones added that the city has ranked first nationally in childhood summer nutrition for eight consecutive years.

Overall, in human body and personal health, fifth-graders scored 44 percent while eighth-graders scored 58 percent.

“Given the importance of wellness and physical education, the 2012 DC CAS findings allow us to establish the baseline indicators, subject and skill-specific instruction needed to align student’s knowledge at all ages to the standards required of them to live safe and healthy lifestyles,” Jones said.

Results were presented at the D.C. Council’s Committee of the Whole and the Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation hearing for “The Implementation of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010″ and “The District’s Environmental Literacy Plan” and are being further analyzed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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