Injunction Puts Bilingual Tests Under Wraps

In an 11th-hour ruling, a judge blocked the state Thursday from publishing the scores of bilingual students who took the Stanford 9 achievement test in English.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge David Garcia issued the temporary restraining order without explanation – an action that could jeopardize the mandated release of exam data Tuesday.

At the Los Angeles Unified School District, the superintendent immediately halted the mailing of test results for its limited-English-speaking students, although some already had been sent.

The district was unsure whether it would go ahead with plans to release and interpret results of bilingual students at a news conference planned for Monday, said LAUSD spokesman Brad Sales.

Rich Mason, chief counsel for the LAUSD, said the district would be ”corresponding our actions to the judge’s ruling and watching the proceedings very carefully.”

The San Francisco attorney who sought the injunction said the ruling protects districts that do not release the scores. ”However, if they wish to release the data, they are free to do so,” said Laura Schulkind, an attorney for Ruiz & Sperow who is representing the Oakland and Berkeley school districts.

As part of the districts’ legal argument, Schulkind contended that requiring bilingual children to take the Stanford 9 in English would result in artificially low scores. Those poor results, she said, would harm both the pupils and districts.

”If those children by definition lack sufficient English skills, then testing their academic ability in English makes no sense and is discriminatory,” Schulkind said.

The ruling sent officials in the state Department of Education scrambling to their attorneys to determine whether any last-minute appeals can be filed.

And a state spokesman said it was possible that test maker Harcourt Brace might not be able to weed out the bilingual students’ scores in time for the mandated release of scores on the Internet.

”This has thrown a huge monkey wrench into our plans,” said Doug Stone, spokesman for the state’s Department of Education.

Gov. Pete Wilson, who championed the test as way to set a benchmark to judge gains in student achievement, issued a scathing statement calling for the state to seek legal action to overturn the ruling.

”Today’s action by one judge places a black mark on California’s efforts to fundamentally reform its educational system,” Wilson said. ”I have one simple question: What do the education bureaucrats have to fear?”

Eventually, Garcia will rule whether the test results should be withheld permanently. A hearing is set for July 16.

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