Los Angeles Times

Saturday, June 27, 1998

Ruling That Delays Release of State Test Scores Will Be Appealed
Court: Officials want to limit impact to Oakland, Berkeley districts.

SACRAMENTO--The state Department of Education plans to file an appeal Monday seeking to limit the impact of a court order that is expected to delay the release of statewide standardized test scores.
      A department spokesman said the state will try to restrict the order of San Francisco Municipal Judge Ronald E. Quidachay to Oakland and Berkeley, the two school districts that had petitioned to block the release of the scores of students not fluent in English.
      With the state facing a Tuesday deadline for posting school and district scores on the Internet, officials hope that the state Court of Appeal will act as soon as it receives the request to overturn Quidachay's decision.
      "There are many districts that do want their scores reported, and we would hope that the state Court of Appeal would view this in that light and allow us to report scores outside of Oakland and Berkeley," Education Department spokesman Doug Stone said.
      Even as they prepared their legal arguments to overturn the ruling, Education Department officials were trying to determine how rapidly the test score data for students fluent in English could be separated, if necessary, from that of students not fluent in the language.
      The company that administered the statewide tests said Friday that it might take a week to redo its procedures in order to report the scores of English-fluent students separately. It was not clear whether taxpayers would have to pay extra for this work.
      Stone said, however, that the department may be able to do the job on its own once it receives the test score data from Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement, the company that created the test and is scoring it under a $35-million contract.
      The company is obligated to deliver the test results in time for them to be posted on the Internet Tuesday. The issue is what can be made public by the state.
      On Friday afternoon, state Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin was preparing a notice for the state's 1,000 school superintendents explaining the likely holdup in release of the scores. It was expected to go out Monday.
Despite the legal wrangling, more school districts across the state continued Friday to make public their own test scores--an action the judge's order did not prevent.
      Ventura County Supt. of Schools Charles Weis unveiled test results for all 20 of the county's school systems at a news briefing, including scores from students not fluent in English.
      Three districts--Oak Park, Conejo Valley and Pleasant Valley Elementary in Camarillo--scored above the 50th percentile in every grade in reading, language, spelling and math, meaning that the subjects did better than 50% of their peers in a national sample. The Oak Park district, long an academic powerhouse in the region, posted the highest scores, with students ranking no lower than the 61st percentile in all test subjects.
      In Orange County, the Garden Grove Unified School District took another route, releasing scores only for its students fluent in English--and withholding scores of students classified as "limited English proficient," or LEP.
      "The LEP scores should be taken out because they don't tell us much. This way, it gives us a much more valid overview of students' performance," said Al Sims, Garden Grove's testing administrator.
      The district released two categories of scores: those for students from English-speaking homes, who scored around the national average in reading in fourth, eighth and 10th grades; and separate results for students coming from households speaking another language but who have become fluent in English.       Their scores actually were somewhat higher than those of the native English-speakers.
      In all, about 4.1 million California students were tested in grades two through 11, about a fourth of them classified as not fluent in English, according to state officials.
      The Los Angeles Unified School District has not disclosed any scores, but plans to offer a limited analysis of them Monday in an attempt to show year-to-year improvement by some students.
      Officials for the 680,000-student district, the state's largest, said Monday's report will compare test scores of students who took the Stanford 9 test this past spring and a similar version of it the year before. They will not release scores for about 120,000 students whose English was judged too poor by the district to make the test meaningful.
      The Los Angeles district is one of relatively few in the state able to make such a comparison, having given the Stanford 9 before. For most, the test was new this year.
      The test was administered statewide at the insistence of Gov. Pete Wilson, who said the testing was necessary for all students to inform their parents how they are doing and show the public how its schools are performing.
      But the San Francisco Unified School District defied Wilson by refusing to test 6,000 limited-English students, setting off a court battle. The Oakland and Berkeley districts, which did test non-fluent students, moved to join the case this week--seeking to have those results suppressed.
      The protesting districts complained that giving English-language exams violated federal guarantees of equal access to education because many students were being tested in a language they did not understand.
      The districts argued that they--and the students--would be "irreparably harmed" if the scores were made public because the results would inevitably reflect poorly on them.
Times staff writers Doug Smith, Tina Nguyen and Fred Alvarez contributed to this story.