Three teachers in Lowell, Mass., who were fired for failing a test of their English proficiency were reinstated to their jobs last week by an arbitrator.
The teachers—Vandy Duch, a native of Cambodia; Vong Oung, who was born in Thailand; and Pedro Espada, who was born in Puerto Rico—were certified to teach mathematics and science and were part of a group of teachers tested in 2003 by the 16,000-student district. (“Mass. Teachers Learn Hard Lesson: Flunk the English Test, Get Fired,” Sept. 3, 2003.)
The testing followed the passage in 2002 of a statewide ballot measure, Question 2, that called for bilingual education classes to be replaced with English-immersion classes and for teachers of such classes to be “fluent and literate” in English.
Under Massachusetts law, disputes involving tenured teachers are settled by panels run by the American Arbitration Association. The ruling ordered the district to reinstate the teachers with full back pay, seniority rights, pension and health benefits, and the right to return to their particular classrooms. The panel said administrators did not have “just cause” for the firings.
The school district said it would appeal the ruling.
A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 2006 edition of Education Week