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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : State Threatens District With Lawsuit Over CLAS Test : Education: Acton-Agua Dulce board is asked to reconsider a decision not to give the exam. A response is due Wednesday.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

State education officials threatened the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District with legal action if it does not administer the CLAS test.

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In a three-page letter, William D. Dawson, acting state superintendent of public instruction, asked the district to reconsider its decision not to give the California Learning Assessment System test. Dawson requested a response by next Wednesday.

“Although I do not relish the thought, the department will pursue whatever action is possible, within the constraints of time and resources, if you continue to refuse to give the 1994 CLAS tests,” Dawson wrote. The Acton-Agua Dulce district received the letter Thursday.

The letter also went this week to four other California school districts that have decided against administering the CLAS test. But the tone of the letter was a far cry from the harsh order state education officials sent to the Antelope Valley Union High School District last month.

“A lot of things have happened since we originally wrote to Antelope Valley,” said Allan Keown, a Department of Education attorney. “It seemed more appropriate to write this kind of a letter under these circumstances than the letter we wrote a month ago.”

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But the bottom line is still the same: Give the CLAS test or the Department of Education will file suit.

“Our intention is to go to court” if necessary, Keown said, noting the department’s legal resources are stretched quite thin because of all the lawsuits that conservative groups have filed against school districts who are giving the test.

The department last week filed suit against the Antelope Valley district. It is the first suit the state has filed against a school district over CLAS. A hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court is scheduled for June 6.

Acton-Ague Dulce board member Bruce Nahin on Thursday said that despite the state’s veiled threat, he remains committed to his position to not give the test.

“What I would suggest to my board is we agree to be bound by whatever the court orders Antelope Valley to do,” he said.

Board member Becky Small declined to discuss the letter, saying she had not yet seen it, but stated, “I still believe in my position.”

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The Acton-Agua Dulce board, in a 4-1 vote, decided April 28 to not administer the test, following the lead of the Antelope Valley district. There are six school districts, including Acton-Agua Dulce and Antelope Valley, in the state who have decided against administering the test.

Acton-Agua Dulce board member Peg Spry, who cast the sole dissenting vote, said she is hopeful the board will reverse its decision.

“I hope the board will change its minds and come into alignment with the state’s requirement,” Spry said.

Department of Education officials have repeatedly said the law requires every district in the state to administer the CLAS test.

CLAS has been hailed by supporters as a revolutionary method of testing students’ critical thinking skills, but has been attacked by others for asking students personal questions, containing reading selections that denigrate the family and being shrouded in secrecy.

The Acton-Agua Dulce board is scheduled to meet Thursday, one day after the state is expecting a decision, and district officials were unsure if a special meeting would be called to discuss CLAS.

“I need for all of the board members to read this thing and react to it,” said Supt. Tom Brown. “We could have a special meeting or ask for a two-day extension so we can decide at our regular board meeting on May 26.”

Joyce Field, a board member who also voted to not administer the test, said earlier she would consider reversing her position only if the state forced such a move. “If the state threatens legal action, we’ll have to take it back to the table and look at it.”


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