Calif. Judge Throws Out Latest Case Against State's Graduation Exam

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Four days after blocking the requirement that California seniors pass the state’s graduation test to get a diploma, a superior court judge in Alameda County on Tuesday dismissed another case challenging that test.

Judge Robert B. Freedman threw out the lawsuit filed in April by Californians for Justice, an advocacy organization, which argued that state education officials failed to study alternatives to the controversial exit exam within the time frame required by law.

A favorable ruling in the case, Californians for Justice v. O’Connell and the California State Board of Education, would have resulted in the accountability measures of the test being temporarily halted until the state studied more alternatives and allowed the legislature to review them.

It wasn’t until last December that state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell held a public hearing on possible alternative measures. Then in January, he concluded that there was no “practical alternative” to passing the California High School Exit Exam to receive a diploma.

Last Friday, Judge Freedman ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Valenzuela v. O’Connell, a separate case that focuses on the constitutional issue of whether all students are receiving an equal opportunity to learn the material covered by the two-part exam. Lawyers for the California Department of Education are preparing an appeal to that decision.

‘The Larger Issue’

In response to Judge Freedman’s latest decision, Mr. O’Connell said in a statement that he was “pleased the judge denied the writ and dismissed the petition,” but that he remained concerned by the confusion created by the decision in the Valenzuela case, especially with just weeks remaining before graduation ceremonies begin throughout the state.

“Today’s ruling allows us to focus our legal efforts on appealing the larger issue of whether the California High School Exit Exam should be maintained as a cornerstone of California’s school accountability system,” Mr. O’Connell said.

Mike Chavez, a spokesman for Californians for Justice—which has offices throughout the state—said his organization was “disappointed with the ruling, but obviously encouraged” by the judge’s decision in the other case.

“We’re definitely planning to appeal,” he said. “We still really believe that the state didn’t follow the law.”

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