Concerned that the new California Learning Assessment (CLAS) test may violate an education code that prohibits questions about students' personal beliefs, the San Marino Board of Education offered parents the option of excusing their children from the exam.
The offer drew a strong response. Of the 228 eighth-grade students scheduled to take the math portion of the test Friday, more than half, 135, were exempted, Supt. Thomas Godley said. Three more students were exempted from Tuesday's language portion of the test.
The board reviewed the test at a closed session May 4 and determined that some questions may violate Section 60650 of the state Education Code, which bars tests from examining students' personal or religious beliefs, or family life.
The tests have been controversial statewide, with many parents and districts expressing concerns about essay-format questions that ask students to express their thoughts or feelings or to relate writings to their own experiences. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that the test did not violate the education code.
After the meeting, the board issued a letter to parents stating that children could be excused from the exam. Godley said that although students cannot be required to take any standardized exam, it is unusual for a school to offer an exemption.
Mark Graham, a parent who organized an informational meeting last week, praised the decision: "We believe after viewing this test that the educational code was being violated, as were our rights as parents."