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Lawyers Go to Court Over Test Results

TIMES EDUCATION WRITERS

State attorneys went to court Monday trying to win the release of California schools’ full scores on standardized tests after a judge last week blocked the state from releasing scores that include those for about 1.4 million students who are classified as having limited English skills.

The order has forced a delay in the state’s plan to post results for all 8,000 public schools in California on the Internet today.

Attorneys for the state Department of Education on Monday petitioned the Court of Appeal in San Francisco to limit the impact of the court order to the two school districts--Oakland and Berkeley--that requested it.

The petition argued that San Francisco Municipal Judge Ronald E. Quidachay exceeded his jurisdiction in applying his order statewide.

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Doug Stone, an Education Department spokesman, said the state argued that because the complaint filed by the two Bay Area districts was not a class action lawsuit, it was improper from Quidachay to treat it as one.

The Court of Appeal responded by demanding legal documents from the attorneys representing the schools in Oakland and Berkeley before the close of court Monday.

“It looks like the court will take this matter up quickly,” Stone said.

As the legal battle played out, state Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin scheduled a news conference for this morning to unveil at least statewide summaries of the scores for students who are fluent in English.

Those summaries--for each grade from two through 11 and for every subject in which the students were tested--also will be posted on the Internet, Stone said.

The timing means the state will have partially complied with the section of the testing law requiring that the results be made available by June 30.

It’s still unclear when school-by-school scores will be posted on the Internet and if they will reflect the nearly 4.2 million students tested--or only those fluent in English.

But even though the court challenge has interrupted the state’s plan to publish the scores on the Internet, individual school districts remain free to release their own results in any form they wish.

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Many, including most districts in Orange County, have decided to publish all their scores, some including those of limited English students.

But other districts were waiting to disclose their results, and many long have campaigned for the elimination of scores for limited English students--a change that would drive averages considerably higher.

The scores on the Stanford 9 tests are measured against a national sample of students of whom only 1.8% are limited English speaking. Most California school districts have a much higher percentage of such students, which would tend to drag down the state’s ranking on the national scale.

The fear was even more intense in the Los Angeles district, which had voluntarily administered the Stanford 9 test last year, and thus faced comparison against itself as well as other districts.

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Los Angeles school officials released a highly limited summary of their own results Monday--showing students improving on a national scale.

Apparently seeking to give as rosy a spin as possible on the test scores, Los Angeles Unified School District officials Monday morning released only the average scores of about half its students--those who had taken the Stanford 9 standardized exam both last year and this year and also were classified as fluent in English.

That group, officials announced, had scored at the 40th percentile nationally, a number suggesting that the country’s second-largest school district had climbed out of the bottom third of the nation for the first time in decades.

“It’s encouraging, but only a start,” said Supt. Ruben Zacarias, who has pledged to increase test scores in the district by eight percentile points in four years.

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District officials acknowledged, however, that they had excluded the scores of, among others, about 100,000 students classified as not fluent in English, even though they had been deemed proficient enough in the language to take the test last year.

Later in the afternoon, after skeptical questioning, district officials recalculated the totals and revealed that there still was a one-point improvement--but now lifting the average only to the 32nd percentile nationally.

Even then, the average excluded many students in the 681,000-student district, such as the large number of limited English students who had been tested in Spanish last year.


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