Plaintiffs in a court case alleging that Alabama’s teacher-testing program discriminates against minorities have decided to appeal a federal judge’s surprise ruling in the case this month.
That ruling threw out a settlement that would have required the state to completely revamp its teacher-testing program.
Donald Watkins, the lawyer for the black plaintiffs in Margaret T. Allen v. The Alabama State Board of Education, filed a petition to appeal Judge Myron Thompson’s decision with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Feb. 14.
Judge Thompson, of the U S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, initially upheld the controversial out-of-court settlement. Among other things, it would have required the state to develop new subject-area exams, and discard its professional-knowledge test for teachers and set lower passing scores on the current exams until the new tests were in place.
The judge reversed his position earlier this month, after the state attorney general argued that the massive settlement required the written consent of all parties in order to be valid. (See Education Week, Feb. 12, 1986.)
Judge Thompson has scheduled a May 5 date for arguments on the merits of the case. That trial will proceed unless the appeals court upholds the settlement before then.
After Judge Thompson threw out the settlement, plaintiffs asked him for a temporary restraining order barring further use of the tests and providing certificates to all those who had failed them, pending the outcome of the trial.
The judge last week denied that request. He said he would consider the application for a preliminary injunction at the time of the trial. The plaintiffs also asked to amend their complaint in order to seek damages against individual members of the state board of education. Judge Thompson said he would wait for the parties involved to file their briefs before he ruled on that request.
More than 600 black educators who would have received beginning or additional certificates under the terms of the settlement now will be denied those certificates.
More than 1,000 other individuals took the state’s subject-area tests in December under new scoring procedures specified by the settlement.
Superintendent of Education Wayne Teague said this month that National Evaluation Systems Inc.— the Amherst, Mass., testing firm that developed the exams—will re-score the results of the tests based on the scoring procedures that were in place before the settlement occurred. The individuals who took the tests in December also will be required to take and pass the professional-knowledge test, which the settlement had discontinued. The next test date is March 22.
A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 1986 edition of Education Week