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Parent upset school testing was planned for Jewish holiday

SUWANEE -- The mother of a student at Riverside Elementary said she was shocked by the school's plans to hold aptitude tests during Rosh Hashanah.

While the school's administration changed the testing dates for her, she's still unhappy with Gwinnett County Public Schools for having initially planned to allow testing during the Jewish New Year.

"They would never have scheduled testing on Christmas or near Easter," said Ayson Levin, the mother of a boy in second grade at Riverside Elementary. "Why can't they be more mindful?"

The Levins found out several days ago that the annual CogAT -- Cognitive Abilities Test -- was planned for Sept. 17-18 during the Jewish holiday. "When I looked into it, it looked like most schools in the county were going to have it during Rosh Hashanah," Levin said. "When I talked to them at the testing office, they said they knew it was on Rosh Hashanah, but they thought it was only orthodox Jews that celebrated on that date."

Added Levin: "I don't know if it was that they didn't know or that they didn't care."

Sloan Roach, a spokesperson with the school district, said that GCPS "does consider religious holidays as well as school holidays and the schedule for other assessments in setting its testing calendar."

Added Roach: "However, it is often difficult to avoid conflicts as this is a very busy time of the year -- Yom Kippur is the next week, early release days fall during the following week, the week after that includes a student holiday and then ITBS (Iowa Tests of Basic Skills) testing is set to begin."

Roach said it was her understanding that the school moved its testing to later in the window "to avoid the conflict."

The CogAT window is set for five days, Roach explained. Testing requires about an hour each day and is completed during a three-day period. "Schools have the opportunity to schedule within that window on any three consecutive days. Make up days are provided during that time as well. In this case, there is flexibility provided within the window and students would not be excluded from participation because of the conflict of dates."

Despite that fact, Levin said it's the principle of the situation.

"It's surprising that in this day and age this is still a problem," Levin said.

She said that while Riverside Elementary "did eventually come through for me, and they did get the dates changed, I hope (the district) will be more mindful in years to come."

Comments

Lewis 1 year, 11 months ago

It seems to me that if we are going to have complete separation of church and government, then religious holidays should not factor into school planning. I would also suggest that there is a good deal of testing that occurs near Easter every year. Gateway testing starts next year the day after Easter...

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ImThatGirl2130 1 year, 11 months ago

I was thinking the same thing when I read the headline. I bet this woman also is one who complains about prayer in school. If we can't observe christian holidays, jewish holidays should be no different. AND the other thing, the original article states that jewish children are out of school to attend the synogogue for their holidays. I hope these are unexcused absences. And no, I have nothing against celebrating any type of religious holidays, but if you're going to seperate church and state it better be COMPLETE SEPARATION! Not just what's convenient to keep people quiet.

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Clh 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm sorry, this is a ridiculous argument. Public schools DO recognize Christian holidays, if you haven't noticed. Have your students ever gone to school on Christmas? I bet not. Plus, Gwinnett County is also off for Good Friday every year, it's just not officially called that on the calendar.

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eitanah 1 year, 11 months ago

But you do observe the Christian holidays. And you are free to observe them with excused absences since school is not even in session. And you have no idea where that woman stands on prayer at school. She didn't even mention it. Chances are real good that she could care less if kids want to pray at school. Just don't require her kid to do it your way. She isn't standing up screaming about separation of church and state--YOU brought it up. No one has asked for school to be cancelled or special treatment. The county is being asked to use COMMON SENSE and a CALENDAR! Jews miss things all the time without anyone issuing a complaint. Yearbook picture day, quizzes, class tests, soccer tournaments, dance recitals, company picnics, corporate events, etc. We even don't complain when the CRCT's are given during Passover, (a time when our kids are up way past their bedtime to attend the traditional Seder meal) and they drag themselves to school tired. We are only asking that they not schedule tests that measure intelligence (and affect their school career) on days when they KNOW FOR SURE the kids can't be there. They can manage to avoid a couple of days a year to schedule a three day test. That's it. But everyone seems to get quite up in arms and finds an excuse to slam the Jews when a parent is just asking to make it so that the variables are the same for testing her kid as everyone else. It always strikes me how often the people who talk about prayer in school are the ones who behave so hatefully toward us...You use our words in your prayers.

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rco1847 1 year, 11 months ago

would you settle for a highly celebrated Baptist / Fundamentalist Holiday? How aboout Christmas or Easter? Living in Gwinnett is a constant laugh.

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Award88 1 year, 11 months ago

Two things here: a) We should not be doing this many standardized tests. I did the math one year, and by the time you factor in the class time lost due to test preparation and actually taking the tests, not to mention when classes have to be re-arragined for non-testing grades, to accommodate the tests, students in Gwinnett County loose between 1 1/2- 2 full years of class time between Kindergarden and 12th grade. b) I do not think this parent was suggesting having the test on a major Christian holiday. I don't think that is even possible since the schools are either on winter or spring break during the major Christian holidays. However, the parent is most likely concerned because the tests were scheduled on a major religious holiday. If it was Chanukah even, I don't think the parent would be as upset. But Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two holidays that most Jewish kids are out of school for to attend synagogue. Scheduling major tests on those days requires the kids to miss even more scholastic time to make up the tests.

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bgw1940 1 year, 11 months ago

If you don't like Gwinnett just move on. Clayton need you.

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dpsnotty 1 year, 11 months ago

Plus they always schedule the CRCTs the week AFTER spring break, instead of the week before. They terrorize the students so much about them that they can't relax & enjoy their break...

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dentaldawg83 1 year, 11 months ago

you folks who are complaining about testing really should find something else to worry about..

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MissDaisyCook 1 year, 11 months ago

This lady needs to quit whinning and stick her kid in a religious private school somewhere. I expect everyday of the week is some holiday somewhere. Heck, I didn't cry when my boss did not let me off to attend church services at the Holy Cow Redneck tent revival, to celebrate Gritz Day in Warwick.

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charlesg 1 year, 11 months ago

This newspaper needs more comments like this.

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JCJB 1 year, 11 months ago

WHINING..perhaps you need some spelling lessons

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A_Gwinnett_Atheist 1 year, 11 months ago

While I appreciate the satire of MissDaisyCook, we do not have separation of church and school schedules, as desirable as that might be. By catering to one religion, it then becomes necessary to cater to other religions where practical. It is hard to fault the original schedule for not knowing that it fell on Rosh Hashanah which is based on a lunar calendar. After it was called to their attention, changing the schedule was easy for accommodating all. Should a testing schedule fall on a religious holiday of very few students, such as Gritz Day in Warwick, then it might be more appropriate to give a special makeup day for these few. If some accommodations are not made, then you are denying freedom of religion to these minorities.

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dman 1 year, 11 months ago

Choices, Folks...everyone has choices. Either go to school or stay out because of your beliefs. Your option. You know the calendar way in advance, so it was not just sprung on you at the last minute. Someone was just looking for their 15 seconds of fame and they got it. In my world, when I get complaints, I listen and then you say "what can we do to make this workable?"...the school complied, then that should have been the end of it. There was NO need to go to the papers...unless you just wanted to cause a stir, that was already handled with professionalism and courtesy.

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Gwinnett33 1 year, 11 months ago

Her son is in second grade. They don't even take the CogAT test.

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freestyle 1 year, 11 months ago

Good Lord, If this fell on a Christian holiday most of you jokers would be crying and making a fuss. I think Ms. Levin was correct to approach the district about this.

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kevin 1 year, 11 months ago

Gee. Studying takes a back seat all the time where parents are concerned.We wouldn't want to make our kids lose their "play" time would we.

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Don 1 year, 11 months ago

If GCPS tried to schedule around every religion then there would never be any good test dates. I mean we would have to include every recognized religion not just Christianity and Judaism.

Please folks get a life and learn that they are not out to get one religion or another!

There is always the option of private schools if you do not like the public ones and their decisions.

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freestyle 1 year, 11 months ago

They favor one religion over another. I would love to see the reaction if this was about a Christian holiday!

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ujustdontgetit 1 year, 11 months ago

Clearly, the parent's concerns aren't being understood. It's not the point of testing or a religious holiday, it's about equality. The county is so concerned with diversity but they miss the basic fundamentals. These particular Jewish holidays are the holiest days of the year in Judaism-if the county testing office had taken the time to review the calendar consideration should have been given.

We(Jews) aren't asking for all of you to stop and recognize our holiday but please offer consideration just as would be given to other religions i.e. Christianity. In a non-religious world students would be in class on Christmas Eve, Christmas day and Easter Sunday and they would all be off on Thanksgiving. Students still get marked absent and GCPS employees have to request time off to acknowledge any other religious holiday. I don't think reviewing the calendar in an effort to promote diversity is asking too much.

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mom2 1 year, 11 months ago

I think the point the parents were making is that it is a bit pathetic and frankly archaic that in 2012 the school scheduling board would not know when a major Jewish holiday like Rosh Hashanah falls on the calendar and schedule accordingly. If it were scheduled on Christmas Day I'm sure everyone that has posted rude comments on this page would be singing a different tune.

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ssilover1 1 year, 11 months ago

The test was changed. I am sure someone apologized. So how did this become a news article?

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1234 1 year, 11 months ago

What I fail to understand is why is it such a problem here where it's been done in the north for decades? Is it that they are more tolerant? Is it that they have people screaming at them?

The truth of the matter is they take all MAJOR religions into account and schedule the entire school year on that basis.

What would it take for the administration to speak to someone from each MAJOR religion prior to creating the school calender and schedule things acordingly??

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 11 months ago

The problem with a standardized test is that it only tells you how good a student is at taking that standardized test. I've seen the effects in talking with middle and high school students at my church. They're not taught how to use information and build on previously learned information. Instead, they're taught to store, utilize, regurgitate, and then purge information in preparation for the next test. And education is suffering in all subjects. Just look at student papers. I have a friend who is a TA at UT-Knoxville and he told me that, even at the undergraduate level, "text"-speak is entering papers. Things like "2nite" instead of "tonight," or "R U" instead of "Are you..." It's sad. . Another problem, and one almost every teacher I know agrees with me on, is that parents no longer act like parents. My parents would not tolerate low grades. Parents now act like low grades are the teacher's fault. Teachers in some districts are now afraid to grade papers in red ink, because it might damage a young child's psyche. It's just about pathetic.

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dman 1 year, 11 months ago

I give up. The school calendar has BEEN the School calendar for how long? Decades. if the Winter Break (as it now called, instead of Christmas Break) just happens to be centered around Dec. 25th and January 1st, then I want to invite someone else to come up with a better school calendar. I am all ears. Dont come with complaints...come with solutions. p.s. Easter is always on Sunday...and last time I checked, we dont go to school on Sundays. What about some of these 24 hour open churches? When do we get their kids to come? They could use the ol' "i am at a church function...I need to be excused."
Where does end people?

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eitanah 1 year, 11 months ago

It's sad to see so much animosity here. (Guess it's easy when it's not you.) Calling the mother a whiner? Really? You folks are not thinking this all the way through. THIS IS ABOUT THE KIDS! You do not schedule tests that measure intelligence when you know for a fact that there are students who cannot attend--regardless of the reason. I addressed this with the Office of Assessment in August. What follows is an excerpt from my letter: "No child should have to be pulled from regular class to “make up” the CogAT for reasons that are completely avoidable. Illness happens suddenly. Accidents happen suddenly. The dates of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, on the other hand, are set and predictable....Dismissing any minority group because they will have an “excused absence”, and an opportunity to “make up”, is wrong. No one is claiming the Jews are entitled to special treatment, but rather that Jewish students should not be saddled with more make up work than is already necessary by missing a regular school day. Being pulled from class to make up a test will cause them to miss even more instruction....many children do not do as well in a “make up” situation. This equates to knowingly changing the testing variables and causing undue burden for some kids...Now really, are these scheduling conflicts deliberate? Highly unlikely! But that’s the point: the scheduling by school officials should be very deliberate..."

Now, would those of you who are crying out, "If you don't like it leave" or "Quit whining" be saying the same thing if the group that was affected were simply a larger portion of the population? Your excuse to be hateful seems justified in your mind by numbers. It's okay to make exceptions for Good Friday because too many kids would miss, right? But Special needs children aren't a very large group either. What if they were the ones excluded? Would you tell them to quit whining? Would you tell them to move to another county? Or would you sympathize? Take religion out of it. Stop portraying such antisemitism; it shows ignorance. No one is trying to tread on Santa or the Pledge of Allegiance. THINK. This is not about religion; it's about the children and not causing undue burden. It's about using common sense and a calendar. This mother is not a whiner. She is angry that the county scheduled testing on a date when it is not possible for some children to be at school. That her child is not affected speaks more to her character than otherwise.

And if those of you who are being so ugly happen to be Christian, I would like for you to take a moment to call upon the feelings you have when you pray. You often use the Hebrew words Hallelujah and Amen to capture the feelings you cannot readily articulate in English...We are united in this language of prayer. This is Religion.

Why can't we be united in not purposefully leaving out certain kids on important testing days? This is Human.

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