Latino groups announced an agreement Monday with the state’s 107 community colleges to end student placement practices that the groups say make it difficult for students for whom English is a second language to go on to universities.
Manuel Romero, attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the pact with California Community Colleges Chancellor David Mertes ends a lawsuit that has been pending in Sacramento County Superior Court for three years.
Susan Brown, MALDEF’s lead counsel in the case, said the two-year colleges agreed to halt over-reliance on assessment tests in placing students and pay more attention to interviews, high school transcripts and other achievement records.
Brown said the problem for Latino students began in 1986 after the Legislature passed a law requiring assessment tests and counseling for all students entering community colleges. The program had a $40-million yearly budget.
“It did not have the intended effect,” Brown said. “Tests like that can be very difficult for Hispanics and others for whom English is a second language. Minority kids with good records in high school were getting shipped off to adult school or put in tracks where they couldn’t get credits they needed to go on to state universities or the University of California.”
The suit never went to trial in the Sacramento court, but was the subject of lengthy of negotiations between MALDEF and three California Community Colleges chancellors, the latest of whom is Mertes.
The agreement to overhaul student placement practices was approved by Judge Ronald Roby.
Brown said that complaints about the tests applied to about half of the 107 community colleges, and did not involve the others.
“Some of them adopted testing systems that were out of date and wouldn’t meet the modern requirements of national education testing institutes,” she said, adding that the tests in many schools were used as a substitute for matriculation services, counseling and career planning for students.