L.A. Abandons Challenge to English-Only Test

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The Los Angeles school board has backed down from its vow to fight in court the state's new mandate that all students must take a standardized test in English.

The requirement that even the students least proficient in English take the Stanford 9 basic-skills achievement test in that language beginning this month has angered districts statewide. It prompted Los Angeles, the state's largest district, to vote last month to approve a lawsuit against the state. Board members had hoped to get an exemption from giving the test to the students with the least exposure to English. ("Calif. Districts Fighting State Testing Orders," March 4, 1998.)

After lawyers advised against a legal battle, "the board, I think, felt the case was not strong enough," Jeff Horton, a school board member, said last week.

The 682,000-student district, Mr. Horton said, will give the test as required but make clear to parents that they may exempt their children. And, he added, officials will make sure teachers and students know that a student has a right, once given a copy, not to attempt the test and to return it to the teacher.

San Francisco Unsigned

Los Angeles officials said they would push the governor and the state legislature to change the testing law enacted last year. Legislation has already been introduced that would address some of the concerns districts have.

"We think that L.A. Unified has made the right choice to go ahead and follow the law," said Doug Stone, a spokesman for the state schools superintendent.

Los Angeles has been one of several large districts in California to protest the way the new Student Testing and Reporting Program, or STAR, is to be administered and the results reported. As of late last week, San Francisco officials had not signed the necessary contract with the test's publisher, Harcourt Brace & Co.

Bill Lucia, the executive director of the state school board, called San Francisco's failure to act "awfully close" to civil disobedience. If the district doesn't sign up by next week, Mr. Lucia said, giving the test as mandated could become a "logistical impossibility."

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