PVUSD nine other districts to sue state today over English language testing
Santa Cruz Sentinel
June 1, 2005

WATSONVILLE — A lawsuit aimed at forcing the state to relax testing rules for students learning English is expected to be filed today in Superior Court in San Francisco.

Trustee Sandra Nichols will represent Pajaro Valley Unified School District at a news conference called to announce the filing at 10 a.m. today in Los Angeles.

Pajaro Valley is one of 10 California school districts joining with educational advocacy groups in filing the suit.

"It’s a combination of fairness for our students and fairness for the way we’re being judged," Nichols said Tuesday. "Our children are being taught to read, write, speak and understand English, but their scores on reading tests are invalid when they’re language skills are below a certain level."

California law requires testing of students, starting in second grade, in English, regardless of their language skills. Plaintiffs maintain the federal No Child Left Behind law permits testing in a student’s primary language for at least three years.

The state’s current testing system demoralizes students and doesn’t provide reliable data about achievement, plaintiffs argue. It also penalizes schools and districts, they say.

In the second year of enrollment in a public school, the scores of English learners are rolled into school and district tallies that decide whether sanctions are levied under federal guidelines.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Hillary McLean said she couldn’t comment on the suit Tuesday since state officials had not been served, but that the testing is necessary to ensure California’s academic standards are being met.

Nearly half the Pajaro Valley’s 19,000 students are learning English. Statewide, more than 1.5 million public school students are English learners.