School achievement tests, required under the country’s No Child Left Behind Act, do not have to be provided in any language other than English, a state appeals court ruled. In Coachella Valley, California, where many of the student’s are considered English language learners, this has severely limited the school’s performance.
Coachella Valley Unified and other school districts alleging that students should be provided with achievement tests in other languages filed a lawsuit. The district is currently under state sanctions and an academic trustee for poor performance on these tests. The attorneys representing the school district state that the school is being treated unjustly since teachers are performing well.
The case appealed a ruling in 2007 by the San Francisco City and County Superior Court. In the case, nine school districts and bilingual education groups came together to sue the state of California over the English only tests. The lawsuit states that the state was failing to meet federal laws, which stipulate the English learners be tested in a method that is considered a “valid and reliable manner.”
The school districts claim that even if the child understands the concept, they may be unable to demonstrate the answer since they cannot understand the question being posed to them.
The court’s ruling (available HERE) was based on several factors including the court’s unwillingness to not second guess the California State Board of Education. In addition, a state proposition that requires the majority of teaching to be done in English also was a factor. The ruling in the case was unanimous. The court stated that it would be confusing to teach in English and then to test in another language.
Federal law states only that reasonable accommodations are necessary to be made to accommodate students. The school districts have yet to determine if they will further pursue the case. They said that they will determine whether or not to move forward once the new administration in Washington D.C. determined how it would proceed with the No Child Left Behind Act.
Sylvester, Oppenheim & Linde represents school districts and school district officials in educational and civil lawsuits throughout California. If you have questions about school and educational issues in California please contact Richard Oppenheim.