[EDLING:839] Lawsuit demands that students be tested in their native language

Francis M Hult fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Mon Jun 6 14:22:36 UTC 2005

Here's an interesting article that came out over the lg-policy list.  I thought it might
be of particular interest.


> >From the North County Times, Monday, June 6, 2005
> Lawsuit demands that students be tested in their native language
> By: LOUISE ESOLA - Staff Writer
> SAN FRANCISCO ---- Ten school districts statewide and three nonprofit
> organizations filed a lawsuit against the state Wednesday for allegedly
> testing non-English-speaking students in English and then labeling them
> and their schools as "failing" under the state's implementation of the
> federal No Child Left Behind law. The lawsuit, filed in federal Superior
> Court in San Francisco, demands that the state test its 1.6 million
> non-English-speaking students in a "language and form" they understand, as
> mandated in the federal education reform law.
> The lawsuit is asking the state to change the way it tests students who do
> not yet understand English, said Mary Hernandez, an attorney with the
> Southern California-based law firm Burke, Williams & Sorensen, lawyers for
> the plaintiffs. "We are asking that the state comply with federal law by
> testing students in the language and the form that will most likely yield
> accurate results on what they know and what they've learned," Hernandez
> said during a telephone press conference out of Los Angeles on Wednesday.
> No North County school districts are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit,
> although Hernandez said the lawsuit represents students statewide and that
> the outcome of the lawsuit could affect how all school districts gauge
> skills among thousands of beginner-English students. Several local
> officials said they had not reviewed the lawsuit and declined to comment.
> Several others could not be reached.
> The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires schools to show improvement
> in test scores in all subcategories of students or be labeled as "failing"
> and subject to sanctions that include forced student transfers, tutoring,
> and, in extreme cases, government takeovers. Officials with the four firms
> involved with the lawsuit said the federal mandate also allows states to
> test English learners in their primary languages for three to five years
> after they enroll in schools in the United States, they said.
> Spanish is the primary language for 85 percent of Californias
> English-learner students. Even so, California requires that all students
> be tested in English only and has steadfastly refused to reword the tests
> for English learners to make them easier to understand. In North County,
> some school districts, such as Oceanside Unified and Escondido Union, have
> roughly half of their students enrolled in beginner-English courses.
> Currently, those students who do not fully understand English are handed
> standardized tests in English. Some schools and districts are facing
> costly federal sanctions because too many students are "falling behind" in
> academic standards," advocates said. "As a result, thousands of
> (non-native English-speaking) children are left behind because they cannot
> demonstrate what they know (on English tests),"  Hernandez said.
> California's English-only testing system is different from practices in
> place in 14 states, including Texas, New Mexico and New York, which test
> students in a language they understand, according to a press statement
> from four law firms involved in the lawsuit. The state's take on No Child
> Left Behind is a violation of both the law and the civil rights for
> non-English-speaking students, the lawsuit states. The state is also
> charged with wasting taxpayer money by testing students in a language they
> do not yet understand, the suit also states.
> The plaintiff school districts are Chula Vista Elementary School District
> and Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego County; Coachella
> Valley Unified School District in Riverside and Imperial counties; Alisal
> Union Elementary School District and Salinas Union High School District in
> Monterey County; Terra Bella Union Elementary School District in Tulare
> County; Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Santa Cruz County; Oxnard
> Elementary School District in Ventura County; Hawthorne School District in
> Los Angeles County; and Hayward Unified School District in Alameda County.
> One of the districts, Coachella Valley Unified, has been labeled a failing
> district overall because not enough students were deemed proficient on
> standardized tests. Coachella Superintendent Foch "Tut" Pensis said in
> Wednesday's press conference that 80 percent of his district's 16,000
> students are enrolled in beginner-English programs. "We are not
> educational failures," he said. "Our students perform very well once they
> get the opportunity to learn the English language."
> Also joining the lawsuit are three statewide nonprofit professional,
> parent and civil rights advocacy organizations: The California Association
> for Bilingual Education, Californians Together, and the California League
> of United Latin American Citizens.
> Contact staff writer Louise Esola at (760) 901-4151 or lesola at nctimes.com.
> http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/06/02/news/state/10_11_426_1_05.txt

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