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Published in Print: June 3, 1998, as S.F. Freed From Testing LEP Pupils in English

S.F. Freed From Testing LEP Pupils in English

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San Francisco students with the least grasp of English do not have to take California's mandatory basic-skills test in that language, a state judge has ruled.

The May 22 decision by Superior Court Judge David A. Garcia handed a defeat to the state. California had asked the judge to force San Francisco school officials to comply with a law that calls for every student, regardless of language proficiency, to take the exam in English.

Without revealing his reasoning, the judge said he would not compel the 63,000-student district to give the test to the 5,740 students in grades 2-11 who have received less than 30 months of instruction in English.

"It's a significant victory for the students," district Superintendent Waldemar Rojas said in an interview last week.

Bill Lucia, the executive director of the state school board said the board was leaning toward appealing the ruling.

Robert Trigg, the board's vice president, said in a statement: "We are mystified as to why these children should be segregated and not allowed the same benefits as all the other children in California."

This spring, for the first time, the state was administering the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition as a mandatory exam for all students in grades 2-11.

Legal Thicket

Not only may the state prolong the dispute by appealing Judge Garcia's decision, but San Francisco also expects to slog through another, related legal battle. Four days before the court ruling in its favor, district officials filed their own countersuit against the state, which they planned to pursue last week, Mr. Rojas said.

In that action, district leaders argue that the state had not, as required by law, adopted academic content and performance standards in a timely way before mandating the achievement test. They also allege it failed to follow state administrative-procedure law on some standards- and testing-related matters, and they asked the judge to intervene.

Mr. Rojas was blunt in his explanation of the cross-complaint. "This whole test ought to be thrown out."

San Francisco officials have dropped, for now, a federal lawsuit they had launched in March against the state. That suit claimed that the test would violate the civil rights of students who were not familiar enough with English to understand it. ("S.F. Files Federal Suit Over Testing of LEP Students," April 8, 1998.)

Although officials in other California districts have said the test would be a waste of time and money for the 1.3 million students statewide who are not well-versed in English, San Francisco was the only district to file suit challenging the mandate. Judge Garcia's ruling applies only to San Francisco.

Vol. 17, Issue 38, Page 6

Related Stories
Web Resources
  • Read a press release from the San Francisco Unified School District about the Superior Court decision. Read the original complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
  • The California Department of Education's Web site contains a summary of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program.
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