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D.C. public schools announces sex ed standardized test

News that’s two days old but worth a second mention: District of Columbia Public Schools is instituting a standardized test that will gauge students’ health and sex education aptitude.

The Washington Post reports:

The 50-question exam will be the nation’s first statewide standardized test on health and sex education, according to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which developed the assessment for grades 5, 8 and 10.

The District’s rates of childhood obesity, sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy are among the country’s highest. Periodic surveys have detailed student attitudes toward risky behavior, but officials said the annual test will fill gaps in their understanding of what young people know and why they might behave the way they do.

“It paints a fuller picture,” said Brian Pick, deputy chief of curriculum and instruction for D.C. Public Schools. “We don’t know as a system or as a city what knowledge kids have about these topics.”

A 2009 District study found that nearly half of the city’s chlamydia and gonorrhea diagnoses were among District residents 15 to 19 years old. Two-thirds of all diagnoses were among those younger than 24. Also, more than 3 percent of District residents older than 12 were living with HIV or AIDS in 2009, the report said.

The initiative may resonate nationally. Also in 2009, the Center for Disease Control found in a study the rate of AIDS diagnoses among young males 15 to 19 years of age doubled between 1997 and 2006, from 1.3 cases to 2.5 cases per 100,000 people. A jump was recorded for other sexually-transmitted infections (STI) among young adults. For Chlamydia, an overview of the report reads:

a total of 1,244,180 cases of sexually transmitted Chlamydia trachomatis infection were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Table 1). This is the largest number of cases ever reported to CDC for any condition. This case count corresponds to a rate of 409.2 cases per 100,000 population, an increase of 2.8% compared with the rate in 2008.

After a multi-decade decline in the rate of syphilis, the STI has rebounded among men and women with increases logged nearly every after 2000.

Meanwhile, the Guttmacher Institute notes 15 to 24-year-olds account for roughly half of the 18.9 million cases of STIs each year, although that age group represents a quarter of all sexually-active persons.

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