CLAS Ruling Awaited as Furor Grows


Opponents of the California Learning Assessment System have obtained sections of the 1994 exams, but promised the judge in a key Los Angeles lawsuit Friday that they would not be disseminated until he makes a ruling in the case.

Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien said Friday that he will rule early next week on the bid by the United States Justice Foundation to require parental permission before schools can give the tests to students.

There were other developments Friday in the spreading controversy over the statewide achievement tests, which critics claim invade students' privacy or contain inappropriate passages in the reading and writing portions of the exams.

In Orange County, the board of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District voted to postpone testing of eighth- and 10th-graders, which had been scheduled to begin Monday, until all seven board members can discuss the exams in a meeting Tuesday night.

In Sacramento, state Department of Education officials said they are likely to seek a court order next week against the Antelope Valley Union High School District in Lancaster, which on Thursday night reaffirmed its refusal to give the tests. Three other districts also have refused.

The Assn. of California School Administrators asked the Education Department not to release this year's test results until scoring problems can be ironed out, and to provide more complete information about the exams.

The tests are being given this spring to more than 1 million public school students in grades four, five, eight and 10. Scoring is to be done over the summer, with results to be released during the coming school year.

Widely hailed as a major step in the drive to improve education by getting students to think and write about more complex subjects, the exam system has come under attack on scoring procedures and on contents.

Although the copyrighted exams, as with other standardized tests, are kept confidential to protect their fairness and validity, several groups have been allowed to review them in an attempt to assuage concerns about their contents. School board members have been reviewing the tests privately, and state legislators will get their first look on Monday.

Although some school board members have said they see no problem with the tests, others have expressed concerns. Newport-Mesa board member Martha Fluor said Friday that five questions on the exams upset board members.

"We would never vote to administer those under any circumstances," she said. "The State Department of Education has placed us in an untenable position. I am appalled."

The Los Angeles lawsuit, brought against the Los Angeles Unified School District, is being widely watched for its expected ruling on whether the tests delve into students' personal lives in violation of the state Education Code.

Times staff writer Jodi Wilgoren contributed to this story.

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