COSTA MESA — A firefighter, a retired statistician, a man who designs educational software and three mothers of elementary schoolchildren were among the first to see the state's controversial standardized tests Monday at the Orange County Department of Education.
"I support the state's effort to have critical thinking incorporated into the curriculum, but there seems to be an increasingly anti-family flavor," said John Price, a father of two from San Clemente who works at the Anaheim Fire Department.
"I'm here because I have to figure out if I need to take a second job to be able to afford private school," Price said, as he took notes on a yellow legal pad about where to send his complaints concerning the 1994 California Learning Assessment System tests. "If this test is as screwed up as I've heard it is, I'll be putting them in private school."
After months of criticism that the new tests are too subjective and violate students' privacy by questioning them about moral issues, the state unveiled the language-arts portions of the CLAS exams Monday at 41 sites around the state. They will be on display for a month.
In Orange County, Price was one of 10 people who showed up to review the tests. According to state Department of Education spokeswoman Susie Lange, response was similarly slow around the state. Some sites reported no visitors, Lange said.
"It was a big non-event," Lange said Monday evening. "Maybe some of it is that people didn't really know it was happening, but it's basically a disappointment. We were ready to showcase our stuff."
Still, there was a steady trickle of visitors to the Costa Mesa headquarters of the County Department of Education, where the thousands of pages comprising the exams were laid out neatly in a conference room that houses curriculum materials for parental perusal.
First in line was Cheryl Gish of Orange, who came toting Kim, 7, and Tyler, who is nearly 2, in a stroller. Gish and her sister-in-law, Cheryl George of Santa Maria, said they came to see whether rumors of violence-laden literature were true.
Overall, both women said, their fears were not assuaged, though they appreciated the chance to see the tests their children are asked to take.