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SCHOOLS GET OK TO ASK MORAL QUESTIONS

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A standardized state test that asks pupils to write about moral questions in order to measure their reasoning and writing ability does not illegally invade their privacy, a judge ruled.

The California Learning Assessment System test, first given last year, includes essay questions in which students must read excerpts from various books and discuss the moral issues involved. It will be given to 1 million students in grades 4, 5, 8 and 10 this spring.Two parents sued the Los Angeles Unified School District, arguing that state law bars schools from asking students about their personal beliefs and practices and those of their families. The wording of the questions was not disclosed.

In a tentative decision, Judge Robert H. O'Brien said Tuesday that questions mentioning God or other subjective topics didn't require students to reveal private information but were intended to show they were capable of critical thinking.

"A grader need not be concerned about the content of the answers beyond determining if they are thought out, or not thought out, and articulated well or not articulated well, or something in between," O'Brien wrote.

O'Brien also wrote that the state Education Code's prohibition of questions on morality and family life was probably too vague to withstand a challenge. pupils.

The judge gave the parties a week to respond before a final decision was announced.