Judge orders Texas to fix secondary-school bilingual ed

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Jul 29 14:15:13 UTC 2008

Judge orders Texas to fix secondary-school bilingual ed

  This is big step in a positive direction!

Associated Press
July 26th 2008

DALLAS — A federal judge on Friday gave the state of Texas until the
end of January to come up with a plan to improve education programs
for secondary school students with limited proficiency in English,
criticizing the state education agency for "failing to ensure equal
education opportunities in all schools." U.S. District Judge William
Wayne Justice said the Texas Education Agency is violating the civil
rights of Spanish-speaking students under the federal Equal Education
Opportunity Act. Furthermore, the state's monitoring of programs for
students with limited English-language skills is "fatally flawed"
because of unqualified monitors, undercounting of students with
limited English proficiency and arbitrary standards, Justice said.

The 1981 Bilingual and Special Education Programs Act, a measure
passed by the Texas Legislature 27 years ago that staved off court
action addressing discrimination in Texas schools, has not improved
the schooling of secondary students with limited English proficiency,
Justice ruled. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational
Fund, an organization that helped litigate the case on behalf of other
advocacy groups, said primarily Spanish-speaking students in Texas
have higher dropout rates, lower graduation rates and lower
achievement rates than their English-speaking counterparts.

"The clear failure of secondary LEP students unquestionably
demonstrates that, despite its efforts, TEA has not met its obligation
to remedy the language deficiencies of Texas students," Justice wrote.
"After a quarter century of sputtering implementation, defendants have
failed to achieve results that demonstrate they are overcoming
language barriers for secondary LEP students. Failed implementation
cannot prolong the existence of a failed program in perpetuity."

The ruling gave the TEA until Jan. 31, 2009, to come up with plans to
improve secondary school programs for students with limited English
proficiency and the monitoring of those programs. Those plans must be
implemented by the 2009-10 school year. Texas Education Agency
spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe declined to comment Friday night, saying
she hadn't seen the ruling. In a statement, MALDEF hailed the ruling
as the "most comprehensive legal decision concerning the civil rights
of English language learners in the last 25 years."

Justice's ruling affects "every single high school in Texas," Luis
Figueroa, a MALDEF attorney, told the Associated Press. "Every school
district is going to have to realize the TEA is going to be looking at
their accountability of English language learners." Justice did say in
the ruling that the problems in secondary schools are not seen in the
state's elementary school programs.

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