Law & Courts

Appellate Court Rejects Challenge To Louisiana High-Stakes Testing

By Erik W. Robelen — September 26, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A federal appeals court last week rejected a challenge to Louisiana’s high-stakes testing system, agreeing with a lower court that the plaintiffs lacked the constitutional basis they claimed for their case.

Neither court ruled on the virtues of Louisiana’s promotion policy, which requires 4th and 8th graders to pass state assessments before moving to the next grade. Rather, the courts said that unlike a diploma, which amounts to constitutionally protected property because it materially affects a person’s earning power, promotion to a higher grade does not rise to that level.

The plaintiffs, Parents Against Testing Before Teaching, based in New Orleans, had argued that because of alleged flaws in Louisiana public education, denying students promotion because of their failure on a state test amounted to a violation of the due-process guarantees under applicable federal and state law. They cited a 1981 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit—the same court that ruled in the current case—that tests tied to graduation do in fact trigger due-process protections.

The three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit, in a unanimous one-page opinion dated Sept. 17, rejected the comparison.

Willie M. Zanders, who represented the plaintiffs, vowed that the legal challenge was not over.

“The case is too important to give up on at this point,” he said. “I knew that it would be tough. These are actions at the highest level.” Mr. Zanders added, “State politicians have stripped teachers of the right to promote students.”

Further Appeals

Mr. Zanders said he plans to appeal the ruling to the full 5th Circuit court and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

But state schools Superintendent Cecil J. Picard hailed the ruling.

“I think it was an important decision not only for [New] Orleans and the state of Louisiana,” he said. “I think this is of national significance.”

The New Orleans group, while saying it does not oppose standardized testing, has criticized the Louisiana system as unfair and punitive to students. The group contends that students have not been adequately prepared to pass the exams.

It went to federal court to block the high-stakes testing, requesting a three- to five-year moratorium or suspension of the tests for grade-promotion purposes “until all responsible parties are held fully accountable for their part in maintaining quality public schools.”

But the appellate panel affirmed the lower court’s rejection of that request. In particular, the appeals court noted that the 5th Circuit’s 1981 decision in Deborah P. v. Turlington, cited by the plaintiffs, “pertains to the narrow right of graduating seniors to obtain a diploma, and not to any expectation of promotion in the public schools from year to year.”

Mr. Picard strongly disputed the plaintiffs’ charge that Louisiana’s testing system is punitive.

“What punishes kids is to socially promote them,” he said. “We’re identifying kids ... and providing the resources to help them.”

Part of a Trend

The decision also drew praise from an analyst at Achieve Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit group founded by governors and business leaders to encourage school improvement.

“This sounds like another victory for those of us who believe that accountability has a place in the public schools,” said Jennifer L. Vranek, the director of benchmarking and state services for Achieve.

The decision, she said, is part of “a growing body of case law in favor of high-stakes assessments.”

She pointed to recent decisions in Texas and Indiana where courts rejected legal challenges to high school exit exams that students must pass in order to graduate.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
Future of the First Amendment:Exploring Trends in High School Students’ Views of Free Speech
Learn how educators are navigating student free speech issues and addressing controversial topics like gender and race in the classroom.
Content provided by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Supreme Court Overturns 'Roe v. Wade’; States Can Ban Abortion
The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents.
7 min read
A celebration outside the Supreme Court, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Washington. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years — a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Law & Courts School Groups Worry as Supreme Court Recognizes Right to Carry Handguns in Public
In a 6-3 decision over a New York state law, the court says little about schools as 'sensitive places' where guns can be prohibited.
6 min read
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the court in 2021.
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the court in 2021.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Strikes Down Maine's Exclusion of Religious Schools From Tuition-Aid Program
The justices hold that barring "sectarian" schools from the program for towns without public high schools violates the First Amendment.
7 min read
Image of the Supreme Court.
iStock/Getty
Law & Courts A Charter School Made Girls Wear Skirts to Promote 'Chivalry.' An Appeals Court Says No
A federal appeals court said the charter school's policy violates the Constitution and that Title IX applies to dress codes.
4 min read
Scales of justice and Gavel on wooden table and Lawyer or Judge working with agreement in Courtroom, Justice and Law concept.
Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock