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Federal Appeals Panel Reverses Order on English-Learners in Texas

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 30, 2010 1 min read
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A federal appeals panel has reversed a July 2008 ruling by a U.S. district court that Texas must revamp its programs for secondary English-language learners because they violate federal law. The appeals court did not accept claims by the G.I. Forum and the League of United Latin American Citizens that the Texas Education Agency had failed to take what federal law calls “appropriate action” to overcome language barriers of students learning English. It also disputed the plaintiffs’ claim that the TEA had not been responsible in monitoring programs for such students.

In the same decision, however, the three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, encouraged the district court to consider adding individual school districts as defendants in the case. Linking the case to district plaintiffs might improve its chances of proceeding, the panel said. The court said it did not dispute that performance data for secondary ELL students in Texas are “alarming.” It said the data show an achievement gap of 35 percent to 45 percent between secondary ELL students and other students and little evidence that the gap is decreasing.

The federal appeals panel remanded the case to a federal district court with instructions to reconsider the evidence in the case to properly determine if the states data system and other sources of information are effective in monitoring ELL programs and protecting the civil rights of English-language learners.

A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 2010 edition of Education Week as Federal Appeals Panel Reverses Order on English-Learners in Texas

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